DBS checks

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is an executive non-departmental public body of the Home Office. 

It is 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) which prevents them from working with vulnerable groups

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There are different levels of DBS check

  • Basic (available for any post and showing unspent convictions)
  • Standard (available for certain, eligible posts only, and showing spent and unspent convictions)
  • Enhanced and enhanced with a barred list check (available only for very particular posts and showing spent and unspent convictions and a check against the relevant barred list)

Details of what each of these cover is available from the DBS website.

An employer may ask for a basic check for any post, as long as that request is proportionate.  However, 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 publish detailed 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.

Information about these checks is available on the DBS website

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Depending on the nature of the work to be undertaken, an enhanced DBS check may request a check against the relevant DBS ‘barred list’.

There are two barred lists: children and vulnerable adults. Individuals who have been judged by the DBS to be unsuitable to work with children or adults in a ‘regulated activity’, due to previous behaviours, offences, etc  will be placed on the relevant barred list.

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.

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Regulated activity is work that a barred person must not do. It is defined in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (SVGA) which has been amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

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

An adult is not considered to be vulnerable due to any personal characteristic.

Any adult may be regarded as vulnerable due to particular circumstances at a particular time. For example, any adult receiving treatment in a hospital may be ‘vulnerable’ in that circumstance. Similarly, 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’.

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 (for example, 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

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

Further information about regulated activity with adults is available from a DBS guidance leaflet which is available to download.

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:

  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 healthcare 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 information about regulated activity with adults is available from a DBS guidance leaflet which is available to download.

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

Applications must be processed by a Responsible Organisation (RO) 'umbrella body' which is registered with the DBS.  OUSS no longer offer this service within the University and departments can register with a recognised external provider. Horus Security Consultancy Ltd are an approved University supplier for DBS checks.

Departments using an external provider must be mindful that the University has its own Personnel Security policy which requires a proportionate and risk-based approach and guidance on the employment of ex-offenders, which must be followed.

Job descriptions must always specify if a DBS check will be needed so that applicants can make an informed decision about whether to apply since, for example, for a role involving regulated activity with children it would be a criminal offence for a barred individual to apply for the post.

Confidentiality of those being screened must be strictly maintained at all times. External providers have the same duty of confidentiality.

Before consider a new DBS application for the candidate, the department should first check whether the candidate is subscribed to the DBS Update Service - see below.

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Anyone who applies for a standard or enhanced criminal record check through the DBS can choose to subscribe to the DBS Update Service (basic disclosures are not eligible). 

This service enables employers (with the candidate’s permission) to carry out an instant and free online check, known as a ‘Status Check’, which reveals whether the DBS Certificate is still up to date, or whether new information may have been added to the person’s criminal record (for example, new convictions). Individual disclosures must still be viewed by departments.

This means that a candidate may not necessarily have to repeat checks when moving jobs, working for multiple employers, or when they need a DBS disclosure for both work and voluntary activities. However, there is only portability as long as the new activity is within the same ‘workforce’ and requires the same level of checking.  

So, an enhanced disclosure to work with children cannot be accepted if the new job/activity is with at risk adults, or vice versa. In such cases a new disclosure will be required.

Status checks can only be requested where the department could legally request a new DBS check for the role that the individual is applying for.

Departments are reminded that they must comply with the DBS Code of Practice and the University’s Personnel Security Policy’s requirement of a proportionate and risk-based approach and with the policy on employment of ex-offenders.

The DBS website includes a detailed employer guide.

The DBS will update the registered individual’s criminal record conviction and barring information weekly and their non-conviction information (for example, an arrest that does not result in any charges being brought) every 9 months.

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How to carry out Status Checks

Departments should ask the candidate for their existing DBS Certificate, and then seek their permission to carry out the free and instant online ‘Status Check’ via the Update Service.

When presented with the original copy of the DBS Certificate departments must:

  • check and verify that the name and date of birth on the DBS Certificate match a passport or other photo ID document
  • authenticate the DBS Certificate to ensure it is genuine. To do this, please refer to the information on the security features of a DBS Certificate on the DBS website
  • check all other details on the certificate: the type of disclosure made (for example, children or adults workforce) must match the requirements of the current post
  • record its issue date, the 12 digit reference number and the candidate’s name, using the pro-forma provided on the right-hand side of this page

Following these checks, departments can go online and carry out the Status Check. If the online results show that the Certificate is up-to-date the result of the check should be printed out and stored securely on the individual’s personnel file (in line with the DBS Code of Practice, the GDPR and related UK Data Protection legislation, and the University’s guidance on retention of documents). If the online results show that new information has been added to the individual’s record a new DBS Disclosure will be necessary.

A DBS Certificate status will change if:

  • new convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings have been added to the record
  • any amendment or change to a current conviction, caution, warning or reprimand has been made
  • any new, relevant police information has been added


  • the individual becomes barred for the list(s)

Should the status change, departments should contact their HR Business Partner for further advice.

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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 Horus Security Consultancy Ltd, or another external provider.

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 HR Business Partner in University HR without delay. The guidance on employing individuals with criminal records must also be followed.

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A DBS check is a ‘snap shot of a moment in time’ and the information disclosed on a certificate will only be accurate at the time the check was issued. Where work includes ongoing regulated activity with children, and/or adults, departments may wish to consider whether it would be reasonable and proportionate to carry out repeat checks every 3 years (this can be done through the Update Service where relevant).

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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 guidance on barring referrals.

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