What is a DBS check and what changes are being implemented?

A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is a mandatory process designed to find out whether an individual has a criminal record.  The aim of the system is to perform a balancing act between safeguarding the public and ensuring that the rehabilitation of offenders is not hindered.

These were originally known as Criminal Record Bureau (CBR) checks which were introduced by the Home Office in 2002.  These checks were aimed at protecting children and vulnerable adults from gaining close contact with people that could harm them.

The switch to what is now commonly known as DBS happened when the independent Safeguarding Authority merged with the Criminal Records Bureau in 2012.  This was in turn triggered by the response to the brutal murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman at the hands of Ian Huntley which attracted a lot of media publicity at the time.

The system was amended in 2013 by the Police Act 1997 to allow for the filtering of single convictions after 11 years (or five years and six months if the person was a minor at the time of committing the offence) , and for non-violent, non-sexual offences that did not lead to a custodial or suspended sentence.

Today, DBS checks are an essential part of the screening process for many jobs, and while there are no official statistics available, it is thought that the system has prevented many people who are unsuitable for sensitive roles, from filling such positions – where they would otherwise have come into contact with children or vulnerable people.

There are obvious professions that require DBS checks for example teachers, doctors and nurses and care assistants.   There are also some bizarre professions that also require such checks including scrap metal dealers, chartered accountants, pest control officers (who may need to enter schools or nursing homes), traffic wardens, locksmiths and Bar Supervisors (who need a personal licence to see alcohol)

There are also different levels of DBS.

Basic Disclosure

This can be requested by an individual and anybody can obtain one.   Employers for example can request a basic disclosure if they want some background information on someone.  This can cover any recent or serious unspent convictions.  It can also be used for those who require personal licence applications, to obtain visas or if you are an infrequent volunteer at a school.

Standard Disclosure

A standard DBS check will reveal spent and unspent convictions, cautions, warnings or reprimands on an individual’s record.  In order to apply for a standard DBS check the applicant’s job title must be included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.     These job titles can for example include Accountants and Lawyers, Court and prison staff and Veterinary surgeons.

Enhanced DBS Checks

These more thorough checks are required for anyone who will be required to work with children or vulnerable adults.  It can also include other professions as set out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and the Police Act 1997.

These enhanced checks can include a barred list which cross checks a list of people barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.

The costs associated with these checks are £26 for a standard check, and £44 for both and enhanced check and a barred list check.

Usually it is the employer who pays for these costs.  In addition you can pay an annual fee of £13 which will assist those who regularly switch jobs for example working as bank staff in a series of care homes.   This saves them time and money in having to pay for DBS checks every time they work for a new employer or are placed by an agency and can be used multiple times.

DBS certificates are issued to individual employees (even though the application may have been made by the employer) and who are able to challenge any incorrect information and spent convictions that may have been disclosed.

The time frame for completing DBS checks is generally between four and eight weeks.  It is also quite common however,  for some checks to take a lot longer to process especially if the person being checked has moved around a lot.   It is always better to use the services of a trusted DBS outfit who can hopefully speed up the process.

There are 5 stages to a DBS check set out as follow|:-

  1. The DBS application form is received by the DBS Authority
  2. There then follows a search of the Police National Computer
  3. Then there is a search of the DBS Children, DBS adults and List 99 in applicable applications
  4. A search is then conducted by the local police force
  5. The certificate is then printed and issued.

Imminent changes

The Disclosure and Barring Service has announced that the filtering rules for Standard and Enhanced checks are changing from 28th November 2020.  This follows a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that decided that the existing DBS  rules were disproportionate and did not afford certain individuals the opportunity to rehabilitate. These changes are also designed to ensure that minor discretions do not continue to have a disproportionate effect on the working lives of those who are effected by them. (R (P& Others) v Secretary of State of the Home Department & Another)

The main changes that are being implemented are that the DBS will no longer disclose youth reprimands, youth warnings or youth cautions.  The multiple convictions rule will also be removed meaning that convictions will also no longer be automatically disclosed where an individual has more than one conviction.  This means that each conviction will be considered against the remaining rules individually as opposed to being automatically being disclosed on the certificate.

It is recommended that employers update their current recruitment practices and policies to reflect these changes. It is also recommended that the following statement should be set out in standard job application forms. ‘The amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974(Exceptions) Order 1975 (2013 and 2020) provides that when applying for certain jobs and activities, certain convictions and cautions are considered ‘protected’.  This means that they do not need to be disclosed to employers, and if they are disclosed, employers cannot take them into account.’

If you have any concerns about the DBS system and the processes that are involved then contact Steven Eckett, Partner and Head of Employment at Meaby & Co LLP  020 7703 5034 or seckett@meaby.co.uk