Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) (criminal records checks)

Overview of the DBS

The primary role of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is to help employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups.

The DBS is responsible for functions previously carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). It is an executive non-departmental public body of the Home Office, responsible for:

  • processing requests for criminal records checks;
  • deciding whether it is appropriate for a person to be placed on, or removed, from a barred list (see below) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

DBS barred lists

Individuals who are found to be unsuitable to work with children or adults in a ‘regulated activity’, for example, due to having previously committed an offence, will be placed on a barred list by the DBS. There are two barred lists: children and vulnerable adults.  

It is a criminal offence for a barred individual to work with a group from which they are barred, and an offence for an employer to hire a barred individual to work with such a group in a regulated activity.

An enhanced DBS check may include a check against the relevant DBS ‘barred list’, depending on the nature of the work to be undertaken.

Eligibility for applying for a criminal record check through the DBS

There are different levels of DBS check: basic or enhanced.

An employer may only apply for an Enhanced DBS check if the job meets the DBS’ eligibility criteria. Most commonly this means that the duties will include ‘regulated activities’, either relating to children or adults (see below), or other eligible jobs that may be considered high-risk. The DBS guide to eligibility provides full guidance on the type of jobs that are eligible.

An enhanced check can include a check against the relevant barring list: for example, if the work includes regulated activity with children, the children’s barring list will be checked, and a check against the adult barring list cannot be requested.

If the post does not meet the eligibility criteria for the Enhanced DBS check, but it is considered appropriate and proportionate for a criminal record check to be requested, a basic DBS disclosure can be requested, or the Other security screening checks considered instead.

Regulated activity - the definitions

Regulated activity – Adults (a person aged 18 or over)

An adult is not considered to be vulnerable due to any personal characteristic: however, an adult may be regarded as vulnerable due to particular circumstances at a particular time, for example when they are receiving treatment in a hospital.  So a disabled adult is not ‘vulnerable’ due to their disability, but will be considered ‘vulnerable’ when being assisted by another with tasks such as dressing or washing.  Such activity is defined as ‘regulated activity’. Day-to-day management (including supervision) of an individual who carries out regulated activities is also regarded as regulated activity.

There are currently six types of activity which can be categorised as regulated activity relating to adults:

  1. healthcare of an adult - provided by, or under the supervision (or direction) of a regulated health care professional;
  2. personal care of an adult - physical assistance (or supervision or teaching about) with such tasks as dressing, eating, or washing, because of an individual’s illness, disability or age;
  3. providing social work – activities include assessing or reviewing the need for health or social care services and providing ongoing support to clients;
  4. assistance with general household matters – day-to-day assistance to an adult in running the household because of the adult’s illness, disability or age (e.g. managing cash, paying bills or shopping on their behalf);
  5. assistance in the conduct of an adult’s own affairs – providing assistance in the conduct of an adult’s own affairs, for example by virtue of lasting power of attorney under the Mental Capacity Act 2005;
  6. conveying – any individual who transports an adult because of their illness, disability or age, to or from places where they receive health care, relevant social or personal care, for the purpose of enabling them to receive such care.

Further details, including exceptions to the activities outlined above, can be found here.

Regulated activity – Children (a person under the age of 18)

The scope of Regulated Activity for work with children and young people is defined under eight main provisions of regulated activity relating to children:

  1. activity of a specified nature – such as teaching, training, instruction, care for or supervision of children if carried out by the same person frequently or overnight. Duties that include providing advice or guidance (except legal advice) wholly or mainly for children which relates to their physical, emotional or educational well-being if carried out by the same person frequently or overnight;
  2. activity within specified establishment - any activity that is for or on behalf of the establishment with the opportunity for contact with children if carried out frequently. Specified establishments include schools, academies, Further Education (FE) establishments mostly for children and childcare premises including nurseries;
  3. healthcare of a child (any frequency) - healthcare provided to a child by a health care professional or by a person under the direction/supervision of a healthcare professional;
  4. personal care of a child (any frequency) - physical assistance (or supervision/teaching about) with dressing, eating/drinking, or washing, because of an illness, disability or age;
  5. moderating an online forum for children - moderating a public electronic interactive communication service likely to be used mainly by children and carried out by the same person frequently;
  6. driving a vehicle used for conveying children - driving a vehicle being used only for conveying children and their carers or supervisors under a contract or similar arrangement when carried out by the same person frequently.
  7. early years or later years childminding (any frequency) - early or later years childminding where there is a requirement to register or for voluntary registration under the Childcare Act 2006 and where the activity takes place on domestic premises for reward.
  8. fostering a child (any frequency)

Day-to-day management (including supervision) of an individual who carries out regulated activities is also regarded as regulated activity.

Further details, including exceptions to the activities outlined above, can be found here.

Applying for a DBS check

The OUSS Administration Team is registered with the DBS to act on behalf of the University, and offers a complete support service, from advice and guidance on when and what type of disclosure is required, through to processing and submitting completed applications to the DBS. All applications must be processed by the OUSS Administration Team.

The University fully complies with the DBS code of practice and its own policy on the employment of ex-offenders. The pre-employment screening notes for candidates, that explain the pre-employment screening approach are provided to applicants through the Core recruitment system.

A DBS check should only be arranged for a successful job applicant, once a conditional job offer has been made.

Confidentiality of those being screened must be strictly maintained at all times. Only individuals already authorised within departments to offer employment and sign letters of appointment should initiate screening and handle information disclosed by the DBS. Members of the OUSS Administration team have the same duty of confidentiality.

Before commencing the DBS application process for the candidate, the department should first check whether the candidate is subscribed to the DBS Update Service.

If the candidate is subscribed to the Update Service

Where the candidate is already subscribed to the Update Service, please follow the guidance available here.

If the candidate is not subscribed to the Update Service

An application to the DBS for a criminal record check will need to be made. Departments should have a nominated member of staff who coordinates DBS applications, and is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate paperwork is supplied and is then processed by the OUSS Vetting and Screening team. The candidate will need to enclose a number of documents, a list of which can be found here. If required, the OUSS Vetting and Screening team can be contacted to obtain the details of your departmental coordinator, or for any further advice.

The DBS Certificate (findings of the criminal record check) will be sent directly to the applicant, and not the University, so it is important to ensure that individuals understand that they will need to bring in their original DBS Certificate for authentication to the employing department when it arrives. The employing department must then validate the Certificate and confirm the individual’s suitability for the post.

When presented with the original copy of the DBS Certificate, departments must make a record of (a pro-forma is available on the right-hand side menu):

  • the date they checked the certificate;
  • details of the person who carried out the check;
  • the issue date stated on the certificate;
  • the certificate number.

Where a disclosure reveals past criminal convictions, or any other adverse information, advice must be sought from the OUSS Vetting and Screening team and the respective HRBP without delay. The guidance on employing individuals with criminal records must also be followed.

How long is a DBS check valid for

A DBS check is a ‘snap shot of a moment in time’. The information disclosed on a certificate will only be accurate at the time the check was issued. The date of issue is stated on the certificate.

If the employee is subscribed to the DBS Update Service, please see the guidance available here.

Where work includes ongoing regulated activity with children, and/or adults, departments may wish to consider carrying out repeat checks every three years.

Referring individuals to the DBS

Where an employee who works in regulated activity with children or other vulnerable groups is dismissed or removed from working with children or other vulnerable groups due to concerns about harm or risk of harm to such groups, a referral must be made to the DBS. For further information please see the DBS factsheet on when to refer.

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