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What is a DBS Check

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Let’s go back to the very basics. What is this piece of paper called a DBS check, why is it important and why do you need one? There’s a lot more to the DBS system than most people think. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so let's address the most fundamental issues of DBS checks.



DBS – Disclosure and Barring Service

DBS stands for Disclosure and Barring Service. It’s an organisation which is part of the Home Office, so is government run. DBS operates in England and Wales only. Because of different legal systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland, there are separate bodies doing the same job in those parts of the UK. DBS is the body responsible for running police criminal records checks on job applicants.


Why People Need Checked

Over the years, there have been several high-profile cases where people in positions of trust have abused their power. The cases which get the most publicity are when children have been involved, but there have also been cases involving disabled or elderly adults. So, the law now states that anyone who is applying for a job involving “regulated activity” with these groups needs a DBS check. It’s all about protecting the most vulnerable in society. Having a clean police record is of course no guarantee that a person will never commit a future crime. But it does weed out the serious offenders who might drift from one job to the next, committing crimes as they go. The Barring part of the service deals with people who have been legally blocked from certain categories of work because of their past. If their name is on the barred list, it’s an offence to employ them.


Levels of Checks

There are also different levels of DBS checks depending on the type of work you are going to be doing. It stands to reasons that someone who is going to be doing hands-on nursing needs a more thorough check than someone working in a hospital records department. Not all jobs require DBS checks, only those which are defined as regulated activity. If employers want to run checks on other employees, all they can ask for is a basic check, which shows the current and unspent criminal record only. It’s against the law for an employer to ask you for a standard or enhanced check if you are going to be doing a role which doesn’t require it.


Who Gets Checked

The simple answer to this is everyone – as long as the job requires it. Anyone over the age of 16 can be asked for a DBS check. People who have just arrived in the UK for overseas can be asked too – although there’s not much point if they haven’t been living in the UK. In these cases, the employer will usually ask for an equivalent check from their home country. There is no maximum age for needing a DBS. Volunteers might also need to be checked too, depending on the type of work being done.