A recent audit of Councils in North Wales found that 25% of staff who should have had a disclosure check as part of the interview process didn’t have their certificate when they started work. Is this something which Council service users should be worried about?


Does Everyone Need a DBS?

On its own, the headline figure that 25% of Council staff don’t have a DBS certificate isn’t anything to be worried about. Many positions don’t require a disclosure certificate at all. The more detailed levels of disclosure check are served for a very specific list of occupations. From a Council’s point of view, people working in schools, in social services departments or helping in day-care for the elderly will all need to have a DBS certificate. Other staff – such as those working in office roles – won’t need a disclosure at all. The concern at Conwy Council was that staff who should have been checked, weren’t.


Pressure On Services

Part of the reason why people are starting work without a DBS certificate is down to pressure on services. Councils across the country are experiencing increasing demands on their services, at the same time as their budgets are being cut. Often, managers are desperate for a new recruit to start work straight away. Coupled with delays at the Disclosure and Barring Service, there is often a crossover period between a job offer being made, and the certificate arriving in the post. Delays at the Disclosure and Barring Service have reduced in recent years and most DBS certificates are with the applicant in around four weeks. However, you don’t have to search far to find stories about people who have been waiting far longer for their paperwork to be returned.


Should We Worry?

It’s obviously concerning to read that people working for the local Council aren’t getting the checks which they need. How can we be sure that they are appropriate people if nobody has checked? Legally, the Council – and other employers – have a bit of flexibility in this regard. There is nothing illegal about asking staff to start work while waiting for their DBS check is being processed. New recruits can undertake training, office work or be paired up with a checked member of staff while they wait. As long as staff are not being left alone to care for the elderly or supervise a room full of toddlers, this is fine.


Speeding Up Checks

There are various stages of the DBS process where the system can be very slow. Usually, public bodies like Councils have their own system for applying for staff checks. This adds an extra layer of bureaucracy rather than just getting people to fill the forms in online and submit them. If there’s only one person trained to check identity documents and they’re on holiday, there’s an obvious delay. The Wales Audit Office report, and the subsequent bad publicity for Conwy Council should mean that all Councils are looking at their processes and trying to speed things up wherever they can.