It’s not as easy as you might think to define a “child” in the UK. There’s not a definite point in a young person’s life when they switch into adulthood. People aged 16 can get married with parents’ consent, work full-time, consent to medical treatment and join the Army. At 17, they can start to drive, and at 18 get many more rights such as voting, taking out credit or opening bank accounts. So there is perhaps a three-year period where young people find themselves in a limbo state of being neither an adult nor a child. When it comes to disclosure checks, much of the emphasis is on protecting children from harm. But what happens for companies employing workers who are under 18 themselves?
The Law Around DBS Checks
The law in England and Wales recognises this issue around young people and the law about who needs a DBS check is clear. No DBS checks can be carried out on anyone under the age of 16 – no exceptions. Children who are under 16 and who are volunteering or even working in roles which otherwise would require a DBS check cannot be asked to complete the form. It’s up to the employer or voluntary organisation how they wish to manage this situation, taking into account the role the child under the age of 16 will be carrying out, and also the safeguarding of the volunteer themselves.
Young people aged 16 or 17 are past compulsory school age and could well be employed in roles which require DBS checks. People of this age are treated as adults for the purposes of DBS checks and would need the same level of certificate as anyone else. This also applies to roles volunteering with sports clubs or other organisations for people under the age of 18. For example, a 17-year-old volunteering as a sports coach with a group of other 17-year olds would still need a DBS check. Employers and voluntary organisations are usually very up to speed with the laws around checks, and determining which roles need certificates.
Issues for Young People and DBS Checks
The main problem which young people face in getting a DBS certificate in their own name is proving identity. Most young people aged 16, 17 or even older are still living at home with their parents. They aren’t paying utility bills in their own name, and might not have a passport, driving licence or other form of official identification. This can make things really tricky when it comes to putting together the right combination of personal identification and other documents to prove address. There is the option for young people to get a letter from an official such as a school headteacher to confirm their identity, but this adds another step into the process.
The best advice for any young person running into difficulties with their DBS check is to seek advice. Responsible Bodies are usually the best people to ask, as they have come across every situation before and will be able to give professional advice.