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DBS checks can raise a lot of questions both for those applying for a check and those whose role it is to process the checks and decide on someones suitability for a role. It's usual for people to have lots of questions. We've tried to address some of the most frequently asked questions below, but if you can't find the answers you're looking for you can call our knowledgeable Disclosure helpline team on 0303 003 1111 or speak to your own organisations recruiter.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 eligible workers. But what is an Enhanced DBS check, and how does it work to protect those we work with?

An Enhanced 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.

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, Thirtyone:eight 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. If it is an Enhanced Check and the role is in Regulated Activity this step will check the lists of those barred from working with those groups. Records held by the local police are also checked.

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 applying for an Enhanced Disclosure 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 into 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 an Enhanced check. If there isn’t eligibility for an Enhanced check, many organisations ask workers to obtain a Basic Disclosure. Basic Disclosures are useful where a role is not eligible for an Enhanced check but where the role requires (or publicly indicates) a certain level of trust by the church or organisation. This could include roles, such worship leaders,those offering transport to/from events, administrators, welcomers, preachers, caretakers, refreshment team etc. Call our disclosure team for more information.

It is important to ascertain the type and level of check required.  Many DBS providers don’t alert you to the serious consequences if an inappropriate check is requested - 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.

Call our Disclosure helpline  0303 003 1111

People often have lots of questions when it comes to applying and processing checks. Our Disclosure helpline is somewhere you can call, to get advice and guidance on these issues and anything relating to processing and managing your DBS checking process.

It’s staffed by our caring and experienced team Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm. All our dedicated team have on-the-ground experience of working or volunteering in children's or youth work and are on-hand to help and support with any queries or questions.

People that call our Disclosure helpline, get advice and support about a range of concerns, including:

  • Guidance around eligibility criteria
  • Questions about applying for a check 
  • Support with managing checks through our online system
  • Help with responding to issues raised by blemished checks

Whatever the issue, give us a call. You'll always be listened to, and if we can't help, we'll point you in the direction of someone who can. Please have your membership number to hand before you call so that we can quickly identify the organisation you're calling from and get you the right help.

We've been awarded the Helplines Standard which is a national accreditation that recognises excellence and best practice in helpline service delivery.

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