Jun 18

How do you know if you need a DBS check?

Some readers have recently asked us “do I need a DBS check” for jobs they’re thinking of taking on.

It’s a good question as it’s not always clear who needs one and who doesn’t, particularly when it comes to volunteering.

Criminal record checks have been around for some time helping employers to find suitable people to work with children and vulnerable groups. However, this process has become increasingly complicated and lengthy so the government has replaced the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check with the one from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Here is how you can find out if you need a DBS check

What is a DBS check?

Young female primary school teacher


The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and carries out the functions previously undertaken by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) for England and Wales and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The primary role of DBS is to help employers in England and Wales make safer recruitment decisions by issuing criminal records checks and to prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups including children.

It’s a way for an employer to check the background of a prospective or current employee’s suitability to work with children, babies, the elderly or other vulnerable groups.

It helps employers – and charities – to check your response to the question “Do you have any criminal convictions, cautions, reprimands or final warnings?”

Usually, you only really need a DBS check if you’re planning on working with vulnerable people and children. Other jobs might not demand it.

A DBS check will determine whether or not it is appropriate for a person to be a placed or removed from a barred list in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

When a check has been processed by the DBS the individual will receive a DBS certificate.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974, criminals who have served a prison sentence of less than two and a half years and do not re-offend during a set ‘rehabilitation’ period after their release may have their conviction spent, which means it doesn’t show up any more and is no longer relevant when the person is being considered for most jobs. It’s quite complex so you can read more about the DBS filtering system here.


Do i need a DBS check?

School Lunch Ladies

Generally speaking, if you plan on working with or around children or vulnerable people you will probably need a DBS check. Employers may wish to look at the DBS eligibility guidance list which runs down most roles that are eligible for a check. However, the guidance isn’t comprehensive, and you should contact the DBS if you’re unsure.

If you’re the person being checked, your potentially new employer will give you a form to fill in and return to them along with documents proving your identity such as a passport, current driving licence and proof of address.  You can find more information on what documents are accepted here.


How do DSB checks work?

Young woman playing with toys with young girl

Your employers will apply to have a check done on your behalf but then the certificate will be sent to you, not your employer.

If you are not yet employed, though, and you’re applying to an agency to be…

  • a part-time nurse,
  • a nanny,
  • a babysitter,
  • a maternity nurse,
  • a school caretaker
  • or other job where you are in contact with vulnerable people

…you may need to organise your DBS check yourself.

However, some agencies will sort it out for you, either paying the fee themselves (usually around £60-70) or passing that on to you.

Employers will only arrange a DBS check on a successful job applicant. They can withdraw a job offer if the results show anything that would make the applicant unsuitable.

These are the basic steps for an employer who wants to perform a DBS check:

  1. Get the application form from DBS or your umbrella body.
  2. Ask the candidate to fill in the application form (N.B. make sure you have everything exact in this form because if you get any of your former addresses wrong it will be sent back you will have to go through the whole thing again – it’s very annoying!)
  3. Send the application form to your umbrella body or DBS.
  4. If your organisation is registered with DBS the counter signatory has to sign the form. DBS will send you a certificate.


What is the Disclosure and Barring Service?

Male teacher high five-ing young student

There are several parts to the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service), here is a quick breakdown:


Once the DBS is complete the applicant will give this certificate to their employer so that they can make an informed decision about hiring you.

You can find out here what kind of information the DBS searches through.

The certificate will contain extremely sensitive and personal information so there is a code of practice for recipients so that you know the information is being handled fairly and used properly.


Referrals are made to DBS when an employer or organisation believes a person has caused harm or poses a future risk of harm to vulnerable groups, including children.


An employer or volunteer manager is breaking the law if they knowingly employ someone in a regulated activity with a group from which they are barred from working.

The DBS do try and make the baring decisions as fair as they can be, looking into each individual case.

There are two main ways a case can reach them.


There are two types of automatic barring cases where a person has been cautioned or convicted for a relevant offence:

  • Automatic barring offences (without the right to make representations) will result in the person being included in one or both barred lists by DBS, irrespective of whether they have, are, or may in the future engage in regulated activity
  • Automatic barring offences (with the right to make representations) may also result in the person being placed on one or both barred lists. This will be subject to whether DBS believes that the person has engaged, is engaging or may in future engage in regulated activity, and the consideration of any representations they make


As mentioned above, this is put forward by an employer or organisation rather than the individual.

A registered body is an organisation that has the right to ask the questions that are exempt under the Exceptions Order to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act or can countersign on the behalf of another organisation which is itself entitled to ask these questions.

Basically they’re in charge of making sure that your application is kosher and will countersign it once they’ve processed it to say that all your information is genuine.

Before they do this they will:

  • Check and validate the information you give them
  • Make sure you are who you say you are
  • Check that your application form is correctly filled in and that you haven’t told any porkies

Make sure that the application process complies with the DBS’s code of practice.

You can find out more about how to make a referral to the DBS in this booklet. 


What’s the difference between the CRB and the DBS?

Young female nurse

The DBS replaced the CRB in December 2012 to make the process more efficient and simpler.

The DBS has a new system which, for the first time, enables individuals to apply to have their criminal record check kept up to date, and employers are able to go online to see if the information released is still current and valid.

The new online service – costing £13 a year to keep your criminal record up to date online – comes into effect from June 17. This means you can take the certificate with you from role to role, within the same workforce, without having to apply for a new one each time.

When subscribing to this service, you would only have to seek a new criminal record check if the system tells you something has changed.


How do I get a DBS check?

Woman with disabled child

You can’t do a criminal records check on yourself.  For individuals who are self-employed, getting a DBS check is difficult but not impossible.

You can find a local DBS umbrella body on the site here. For a fee, one of these agencies will do it for you.

In Scotland, if you need to run a check on yourself, you can get a ‘basic disclosure’ with details of any unspent convictions from Disclosure Scotland.

You can also get checked through an organisation you belong to, like your church or a sports club, whereby they act as your third party.

If you cannot get your hands on the DBS check, a good alternative is a Subject Access Report which you can obtain by filling out a form online or going down to your local police station. The report costs £10 and shows anything that is on your record. It should take around four weeks to process. However, be aware that this is not always good enough.

Many psychologists are technically self employed but work with children under contract with NHS/Social Services therefore a basic check is ineffective as a safeguarding measure.  In this case a subject access report is an insufficient alternative to a DBS check.


How much do DBS checks costs?

Woman looking at money thoughtfully

There are three types of check each with a different price.

Type of check and cost What it will check for How long it normally takes
Standard – £26 Spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, final warnings About two weeks
Enhanced – £44 As above – plus any additional information held locally by police forces that’s reasonably considered relevant to the post applied for About four weeks
Enhanced with list checks – £44 As above – plus a check of the appropriate DBS barred lists About four weeks

For volunteers it is usually free of charge.

However, on top of these charges you will pay administration fees to the agency which will vary according to the different registered bodies, but are usually in the region of £20 plus VAT.

N.B. DBS checks are only valid in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For Scotland you must get your check done by Disclosure Scotland. All checks carried out cost £25.


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321 thoughts on How do you know if you need a DBS check?

  1. lease can you confirm by email what Alex told me yesterday, that bar persons in general do not need to have a DBS check many thanks

    1. Hi there. The DBS check is generally just for people working with children or vulnerable adults. So if you’re in medicine, teaching, some forms of entertainment, even being a film extra if you might work with children, then you need some form of DBS check.

      However, with bar work, on the whole, you’re not working with these groups so it’s unlikely you will have to have one.

      Ultimately it’s up to the employer, if they’re in a sector that doesn’t HAVE to have a DBS check. Some companies want one anyway.

  2. I got a caution for “soliciting” 10 years ago, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, only chatting to a woman who had approached me but I accepted a caution to avoid what I was told (wrongly as it happens) would “end up in court”. The police officer who arrested me was most pleased that I accepted a caution. Hand on heart, I can honestly say that that single 30-second mishap, the caution and its appearance on the certificate has fucked up my entire life. I have not been able to get a job since. Each time I go for a job interview, I fail Without a doubt, it has destroyed my home life, my work life and my social life. And I never even did anything wrong. For anyone reading this, please do not do what I did – not unless you want to end up alone and suicidal. Some of these DBS barring measures are deeply ignorant, and deeply, deeply fucked up.

    1. Will, I’m so sorry to hear that. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot.

      I spoke to an employment lawyer – Emma O’Leary at the ELAS Group – about this and she sent this reply:

      ““The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 protects ex offenders from minor misdemeanours blotting their entire life. The idea is that after a period of rehabilitation the conviction is considered ‘spent’ and the person is not obliged to disclose that conviction on any job application. A caution such as the one described would certainly be spent and should not be relevant to any future employment. That said, certain professions and employment are exempt from the act such as anyone working with children or vulnerable adults, health services, solicitors and many more. If the person was applying for a job in such a profession or industry, then the employer would be obliged to carry out a DBS check which would reveal any conviction, including cautions and reprimands so the soliciting offence would appear on the DBS Certificate. It is then up to the employer to take a sensible approach to that conviction and decide whether or not they are suitable to work in the job they have applied for. For example, a 20 year old shop lifting offence when the person was very young should not mean that person is now not suitable to work in the care industry. A caution for soliciting, if this version of events is believed, similarly should not prevent future employment.

      “Some offences such as murder or sexual offences may never be spent and may also mean the offender appears on the DBS Barring list, meaning that they could never work in certain professions or industries, usually care e.g. with children or vulnerable adults. The type of offence described is not such an offence and therefore should not bar the person automatically. “

      I hope that helps. Get in touch again if you need more information.

  3. Very good idea you’ve shared here, from here I can be a very valuable new experience. all things that are here will I make the source of reference, thank you friends.

  4. Three years ago someone reported my children as being left home alone, they were in the care of my eldest teenage son. The police attended and were happy with my care arrangements but the house was untidy and they reported me to socisl services. They wrote to me and sent the health visitor to see us at home and she said everything was fine, the house was fine and she felt there was no issue. As teacher and thinking of applying for a new job, but I am worried this would show up on an enhanced DBS check. Would it?

  5. Hi, I’m awaiting a police check done by social services, my partner has recently been arrested and bailed pending further enquiries. Will this show up on the check?

  6. I applied for a Basic Disclosure for a job in 2008, and it listed two convictions, Driving a Vehicle with Excess Alcohol (DR10) in August 2003, and Motorway Traffic (Speed) Regulations (SP70) in December 2003.

    Commencing teacher training in 2014 I had to apply for an Enhanced DBS, and reading the guidance regarding Filtering I was upset to realize that my second (relatively trivial) conviction for speeding could mean that the DR10 might NEVER be filtered.

    It was a something of a relief then, when my certificate came back with only the DR10 listed as a ‘Conviction’, and the SP70 relegated to the section ‘Other relevant information disclosed at the Chief Police Officer’s Discretion’.

    Encouraged by this, I waited until December 2014, and applied for another Enhanced DBS through my University hoping that the DR10 would now be filtered off under the 11 year rule. I have just received the certificate back and the conviction has indeed disappeared – but the SP70 speeding offence STILL APPEARS in the ‘Other relevant information disclosed at the Chief Police Officer’s Discretion’ section!

    Whilst this is fairly trivial compared to my original problem, I am still a little disappointed, and uncertain as to whether I should appeal this – as exceeding 70 mph on a motorway 11 years ago doesn’t seem very relevant to teaching at secondary school?!

    My worry is that if the certificate is examined the decision could go the other way and my DR10 reappear! Does this ever happen?

    There seems confusion as to whether a speed ticket which goes through the court (I was awaiting a replacement license from DVLA at the time and hence could not submit for endorsement for my fixed penalty, leading to the conviction defaulting to Magistrate’s Court) is or isn’t a conviction in the context of a DBS?

    1. It appears that the speeding conviction may have been treated differently as it was a Scottish conviction rather than England and Wales.


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