A guide to DBS checks

Antony-Parke-headshotAntony Parke is the Head of Business Services for Voluntary Norfolk which includes the national brands, Charity BackRoom and Blue Tree Fundraising. Antony has overseen the growth of Charity BackRoom, which offers a range of back-office services designed specifically for not-for-profit organisations, from a handful of clients to over 1200.

Some organisations will have volunteers and staff in roles that require DBS checks. These kinds of roles are usually those that involve close and unsupervised contact with vulnerable adults and children. For an organisation to request a DBS check, they must be sure that the role is eligible for a check and that it is necessary as part of a wider approach to safeguarding volunteers and the people they encounter in their role. The system can be tricky to navigate. Here, I answer some of the common questions around DBS checks.

Should I do standard or enhanced checks?

The ability for an employer, voluntary organisation or licensing organisation to ask an individual to apply for a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, at either Standard or Enhanced level, is set out in legislation. Eligibility is based upon the nature of the duties for the specific position. To be eligible for a DBS check, a position must be:

  • listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 – this entitles the position to a Standard level check only.
  • prescribed in The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations – this entitles the position to an Enhanced level check. These are for posts that involve a far greater degree of contact with children or vulnerable adults. In general the type of work will involve regularly caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge of such people. Examples include a Teacher, Scout or Guide leader. Enhanced checks are also issued for certain statutory purposes such as gaming and lottery licences.

If you are in any doubt you can email customerservices@dbs.gsi.gov.uk or call 03000 200190. NCVO also has extensive guidance on DBS checks which includes help on how to identify what level of check is appropriate.

My organisation has an ‘Enhanced Check Policy’ where all volunteers and staff are enhanced checked.

It is important that your organisation only completes the level of check the role is eligible for and that the check is necessary. If an individual knowingly asks for a DBS check for a post which is not included in the Exceptions Order 1975 to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA), they would be in breach of Part V, section 123 of the Police Act, in that they are committing an offence by knowingly making a false statement for the purpose of obtaining or enabling another person to obtain a certificate under this.

I’ve never been asked to justify a check before, why should I be worried?

As providers of DBS checks, we are seeing rises in the number of applications which are being stopped and subjected to additional justification requirements. Not only does this represent an unnecessary delay to the check which you require, but there are potentially criminal (see above) and employment law related consequences (failure to lawfully request a DBS check of an individual could lead to a number of HR related complaints and grievances against the organisation).

How can I demonstrate that a certain check is required?

With electronic DBS checks there is a need to enter the job role that will be undertaken by the staff member or volunteer applying for the check, and this may well be different to the job title that would have been asked for on the paper DBS form. The job role should reflect the qualifying criteria which makes the role eligible for a check.

A good example is ‘trustee’. Such applications are often questioned because it is not clear what actual role they will be completing. Are they ‘hands-on’ or do they never get closer than the boardroom? Are they even entitled to a check? If a ‘trustee’ qualifies for a check because of a particular aspect of their role, then their job role is the task they are performing which qualifies them, such as Overnight Carer.

Can I use the job role ‘volunteer’

No, elsewhere on the form you are requested to identify whether the person being checked is a volunteer. This is only relevant to DBS is for charging reasons as checks for volunteers are free of charge, although an admin fee is still charged by the umbrella body. In terms of a job role then ‘volunteer’ does not describe the activities or the requirement for the check and cannot be used

How long do DBS checks take?

There is a common misconception that some companies can obtain DBS checks quicker than each other. There is no real merit to the argument; once applications are transmitted to DBS then all providers are powerless.

The average turnaround time for electronic checks is five days (standard) and nine days (enhanced). This is approximately twice as quick as paper checks. However, under service agreements between the Police and the DBS, the Police have up to 60 days to complete their checks at each of their two stages: PNC (police national computer) and LPF (Local Police Force – Enhanced checks only).

It is worth noting that if the Police have a query relating to anything on the application then the 60 day countdown starts again. As more and more local police forces are now challenging reasons for a particular enhanced check, then there is an inevitable risk that the application will take longer than it would otherwise have done. This is one of the reasons why an accurate job role can make a real difference in the time your application may take.

If your organisation needs to complete DBS checks then why not visit our trusted suppliers

Further information

Further information and advice can be found on the Safeguarding volunteers section on Knowhow, as well as on the government DBS site.

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