A Brief Guide to DBS Checks

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The Disclosure and Barring Service was created to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable people. A DBS Check (formally a CRB check) aims to help employers determine whether an employee is suitable for a particular role. Those involved within the charity and social enterprise sectors often work with children or vulnerable adults who are at higher risk of mistreatment, so a DBS check may be a legal requirement and should be carried out as part of an organisation’s safeguarding procedures.

There are four levels of DBS check. Understanding the check level required for a specific post can often be a difficult area to navigate, and you could be committing a criminal offence if you apply for the wrong level prescribed by the position in question. You must, therefore, be aware of the different types of check available and when you are permitted to request them.

DBS Check Levels:

  • Basic check – shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions
  • Standard check – shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
  • Enhanced check – standard check plus any information held by local police relevant to the role
  • Enhanced check with barred lists – enhanced check plus whether the applicant is on the list of people barred from doing the role

If an individual wishes to check their criminal record, they are permitted to request a Basic check on themselves, but an employer can request a check level higher than this on behalf of the employee. To undertake a check at a higher level, the role needs to be either a regular activity or a regulated activity. An organisation may not be permitted to carry out a Standard check on an employee who, for example, is working at a one-off event where they will have unsupervised contact with children. In this instance, only the employee can carry out a Basic check on themselves, which is limited in information (as described above).

A regular activity refers to a position which is undertaken once a week or more or; four or more days in a 30-day period or; overnight between 2 am and 6 am.

Regulated activities refer to positions listed in the following:

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 – entitles the job to a Standard level check.

The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations – entitles the position to an Enhanced level check. These posts involve more significant contact with vulnerable people. They include roles which require regularly caring for, supervising or being in sole charge of such people, such as a teacher or youth leader.

For an Enhanced check with Barred Lists the criteria are stricter. Some of the roles where this might be necessary include:

Vulnerable Adults

  • Personal care;
  • Social workers;
  • Deputies appointed under the Mental Health Act.


  • Regulated healthcare professionals;
  • Childminders/foster carers;
  • Personal care;
  • Other regular activities, such as;
    • Unsupervised teaching, training and caring for children;
    • Moderating internet chat rooms used by children;
    • Transport for children.

Things to remember:

  • Standard and Enhanced level checks can be undertaken on volunteers free of charge;
  • Always remember to be as transparent as possible on the employee’s role when requesting a DBS check (e.g. ‘volunteer’ is not enough information);
  • DBS checks include sensitive information – ensure this is handled and stored appropriately. You must be able to provide a written policy detailing how you will treat the information you receive;
  • The rules on DBS checks differ in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Please note, this is not intended to act as an exhaustive guide. If in doubt, several organisations provide a DBS checking service on behalf of clients and can advise on the right checks to be made.

Find More Information:

Which is the right check” tool – https://www.gov.uk/find-out-dbs-check

DBS Guidance Leaflets – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dbs-guidance-leaflets

About the Author

George Dixon is an experienced underwriter who has worked at aQmen Underwriting for 6 years.