The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions about potential employees. It helps to prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children.
The two main functions of the DBS are:
- Checking – this part of the service allows employers to check and access the criminal record history of people working, or applying to work (whether paid or unpaid) in certain positions, especially those that involve working with children and vulnerable adults. The disclosure team carries out criminal record checks that result in DBS certificates being issued to an individual. Employers can then ask to see this certificate to make sure that they are recruiting suitable people into their organisation. There are currently three levels of criminal record check – basic, standard and enhanced. All disclosures about potential employees for work with children and vulnerable persons must be at an enhanced level.
- Barring – DBS caseworkers make decisions about who should be placed in the child barred list and/or adults barred list and are prevented by law from working with children or vulnerable groups. An employer or an organisation can make a barring referral if they believe a person has caused harm or poses a future risk of harm to vulnerable groups, including children (see ‘Referrals to the DBS’ below).
Find out more about the DBS, including information about the different types of criminal record checks and how to apply for a check.
Any organisation where people are engaging in ‘regulated activities’ must have robust and transparent recruitment procedures in place to make sure that children, young people and vulnerable adults are safeguarded.
Those working in specified activities will be classed as engaging in regulated activity. Put simply, this is anyone who is teaching, training, instructing, coaching, caring for or supervising children.
Applicants are also classed as working in regulated activity if they work in a specified establishment. These include, but are not limited to:
- children’s homes
Anyone permanently working in these places would be classed as engaging in regulated activity, for example, working as a teacher, nursery nurse, or caretaker.
For a person who occasionally works in these places, such as a contractor or photographers, it would depend on the frequency of their work. To be eligible for a DBS check they would need to work in any one of these specified places more than three times in a 30-day period.
Before recruiting staff and volunteers (whether paid or unpaid), the following must be considered:
- A commitment to safeguarding must be included in the application process, for example, in the job description or other documentation
- Thoroughly check the identity, work history and references of all applicants, including any gaps in employment/time;
- Obtain proof of qualifications
- Carry out checks with the DBS, including checks against DBS barred lists
- Make sure all employees start within a probationary supervised period
- Obtain references for successful applicants and verify these by telephone
You can read more on this at the South West Child Protection Procedures (SWCPP) website.
Referrals to the DBS
Anyone who is a ‘regulated activity’ provider has a legal duty under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (SVGA) to refer any person who has:
- Harmed or poses a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult
- Satisfied the harm test or received a caution or conviction for a relevant offence.
The following groups also have power to make a referral to the DBS:
- local authorities (safeguarding role)
- education and library boards
- health and social care trusts (Northern Ireland)
- keepers of registers e.g. General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council
- supervisory authorities e.g. Care Quality Commission, Ofsted
Further information and guidance, including factsheets and instructions can be found in the DBS referrals guidance and Making Safeguarding Referrals to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) leaflet.
Referring a teacher
If a DBS referral concerns a teacher then the person making the referral should also consider referring the case to the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA). The TRA is responsible for investigating allegations of serious misconduct against teachers and headteachers in schools in England. Find out more about teacher referrals.
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