Frequently Asked Questions

It's usual for people to have lots of questions when it comes to DBS checks, and we often find there are a number of commonly held misunderstandings about what DBS checks are and how they work.  We've tried to address some of the most frequently asked questions here, but if you can't find the answers you're looking for you can call our knowledgeable team on 0303 003 1111 or speak to your own organisations recruiter.

Most people wanting to work with children and adults are dedicated individuals who want the very best for those in their care.  However, many places of worship, faith groups and other organisations now recognise the importance of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for all workers. But what is a DBS check, and how does it work to protect those we work with?

A disclosure check reveals any information held on central police databases such as cautions and convictions, and a person’s inclusion on government lists that bar them from working with vulnerable groups. A check at an enhanced level also includes non-conviction data that will be disclosed where it is relevant to the role for which the person has applied.

Launched in March 2002, DBS checks (then known as CRB checks) were introduced by the government to check the criminal background of all people who work with children or adults at risk in schools, voluntary organisations or professional bodies, following public concerns about safety.  The government agency set up to administer these checks is the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) (formerly known as the Criminal Records Bureau or CRB).  The DBS’s aim is to help employers in England and Wales make safer recruitment decisions.

The Charity Commission requires that everyone working with vulnerable beneficiaries who are entitled to have a check do so.  Failure to address this by an organisation could be regarded as a ‘serious incident’ and potentially lead to action

A church or organisation needs to be registered with a DBS processing body like Thirtyone:eight. Those applying for checks need to provide all their addresses for the last five years and the dates lived there.  They also need original identification such as a passport, driving licence and birth certificate.

Once the application has been submitted and received, the DBS check it for any mistakes. Within 24 hours of receipt it is added to the DBS computer system or returned if any corrections are needed.

The DBS then search the Police National Computer, a nationwide computer database that allows them to check a person’s criminal record for any cautions, warnings, reprimands or convictions.  If a check at an enhanced level is needed, this step will check the lists of those barred from working with those groups.  Records held by the local police are also checked.

The length of time it takes to complete this step depends on previous address history. The more previous addresses held by the applicant, the longer this could take.  When these steps are completed, the applicants’ DBS certificate is issued and posted to their home address.

We generally advise that churches and organisations follow best practice in carrying out checks every three years, but you should also check with your insurance company and head office to see what they require.

It's important to remember that a check is only as good as the information provided at the time the check is applied for and is effectively out of date as soon as it is issued.  You cannot assume that you will be informed of any future concerns and so we also advise having a clause in a worker’s contract obliging an individual to inform the organisation of any subsequent police/social services involvement. 

If you ever have any concerns about a worker; or they are in a role with a high level of contact then it may be appropriate to ask them to apply for a renewal at any interval.  If applicants register for the DBS Update Service then there may be no need for renewals as you can frequently check online that there has been no new information issued

Some people mistakenly think that carrying out a DBS check is all that is needed when recruiting a worker.  However, although these checks are absolutely vital, on their own they only go so far in protecting those in your care.

The realities of recruiting volunteers and workers, especially within churches and Christian organisations, can pose specific challenges.  It can sometimes be tempting to cut corners or to bend policies to meet immediate needs.  Those who have responsibility in this area need to remember the role that these checks play as part of a safer recruitment process

As the largest provider of DBS checks to the faith sector, we know the large variety of results that can come back as part of a check, but a blemished disclosure doesn’t automatically mean a worker will be prevented from fulfilling their role.  A conviction for minor theft several years ago, for example, does not necessarily mean the applicant is unsuitable to work with children or young people now.  This is where the risk assessment process comes in and where our dedicated support team can help you in reaching a decision.

The DBS is responsible for maintaining two barred lists the ‘Children’s and Vulnerable Adults’ lists. Using information from a number of sources including the Police, local authorities and employers, the DBS case workers assess the risk of harm that an individual would pose if they were to work with vulnerable groups.  Where an individual has been referred to the DBS they will consider all available relevant information and decide if it is appropriate to add that person to one or both of the barred lists.  If an applicant is involved in regulated Activity the DBS check must include a check of the barred lists.  We can advise you to help determine whether workers will be in Regulated Activity.

Plan ahead.  It’s really important to plan in advance when applying for DBS checks as it can take some time. Ensure you know what activities and services you have planned throughout the year and how many people will need to be involved and factor this in to your administration.

Remember the check is based on the role, and it is the role which determines whether or not the person is eligible for a check.  Some organisations not familiar with DBS legislation may submit a check for anyone and everyone working or volunteering for them as they hope a catch-all approach will ensure no-one slips through the net. We’ve seen checks being submitted for volunteers who serve refreshments to those arranging flowers and everything in between.

Although this may seem sensible, what many DBS providers don’t alert you to is the serious consequences this can lead to, as sensitive and personal information may be disclosed which an organisation may not legally be entitled to hold.

DBS checks do help to keep children and vulnerable people safe by providing important information which can help organisations make the right decisions about their workers, but only as part of a safer recruitment process, and a clear commitment by the whole organisation to create safer places for all.

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