What is a DBS check, and when do you need one?

What is a DBS check, and when do you need one?

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When you undertake study, such as an online childcare course, you will need practical experience.  If you are going into a workplace that looks after or teaches children, you are going to need a DBS certificate.  You might already have been asked for a DBS and are wondering what it entails.  Here, we offer a guide for all you need to know.

What is a DBS check?

DBS stands for Disclosure and Barring Service.  This is a check on the record of an individual’s criminal convictions and cautions.  If you are going to work in a school, you will likely be asked to undertake an enhanced DBS, which also records any reports made to the police and allows the police to make a relevant comment if needed.

The DBS replaces what used to be the CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks.  The changes came in as part of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.  The function of the DBS and the CRB are the same.

Getting a DBS check

It might sound exhausting and scary, but a DBS check is easier than it looks. First, it is essential to know that you cannot ask for a DBS yourself; you will need to go through a company, school, charity or other body requiring the certificate. You will be asked for specific information from the organisation.  The data is required to identify you and to confirm where you live.  You will then be sent an online form to fill out, and the employer will endorse this to say they have seen the relevant identifying documents.  The checks will then be carried out, and you will be sent a certificate through the post.

When will you need a DBS check?

Your employer does not have the right to demand a DBS check for just any role.  The organisation you are working for will need to fall into certain criteria, where you will be undertaking specific tasks.

You will need a DBS check if you want to work as a:

  • Teacher
  • Childminder
  • Social Worker
  • Medical Professional
  • Foster Carer.

It is worth noting how these roles are ones where you will be working with vulnerable people.  In settings such as schools, nurseries, hospitals and children’s homes, you will need a DBS check no matter what role you take in that organisation.  Some other positions will require a DBS check upon entry to the profession, such as solicitors and accountants.  Here is mostly a proof of your honesty and integrity, which is highly desired in these roles requiring the trust of clients.

Critical details about DBS checks

  • You need to be over 16 before the company can request a DBS check.
  • A DBS check has a limited shelf-life. Although the DBS never technically expires, you are likely going to need a new one with each employer you approach.  You may also need to update this year on year with some employers.
  • It usually takes about eight weeks for the complete DBS process. However, depending on the complexity of the details needed, the checks could be much quicker than this.
  • The DBS check is not free. Your employer may cover the cost, or they may pass this on to you.  Depending on the depth of the check, the price can vary from £26 to £44.
  • There are three levels of DBS check: standard, enhanced and enhanced with list checks. The basic check lists your spent and unspent convictions, reprimands, cautions and final warnings. The enhanced check also provides any relevant information held on you by the police.  The list checks are the DBS barred lists, where you may have been prevented from working with children, animals or other relevant vulnerable groups.
  • Your employer can only request the check that is relevant to the role you are taking on.

When something is not quite right

If the DBS check comes back and the certificate reports inaccurate details, you have the right to report the mistakes within three months.  It may be that there has been a mistake in the criminal records provided or your personal details are inaccurate.  Your employer can request these mistakes to be rectified after speaking to you.  Then, the local authorities will carry out any essential checks to make sure the error is put right.

You can find more details about DBS checks on the gov.uk website.

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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