Most of us know what DBS checking, and often DBS – or the older term of CRB – is used to describe the process across the UK. In fact, DBS checking through the Disclosure and Barring Service is only used in England and Wales, and there are separate processes for those living in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, the body which administers police checking is called Access NI, so here’s a guide to getting police checks done if you’re living or applying for a job in Northern Ireland.

Basic, Standard and Enhanced

Just as with DBS checking in England and Wales, there are three different levels of checking which can be done on workers in Northern Ireland. These are basic, standard and enhanced and are broadly similar to the checks carried out by DBS elsewhere. Employers know what types of checks need to be carried out depending on the role the person is applying for. Costs for the basic and standard checks are the same at £26, and an enhanced check is more expensive at £33 as it delves deeper into someone’s criminal record and may contain more information depending what is flagged up. Sometimes employers will cover the cost of having checks done, but more often than not it is up to the prospective employee to pay Access NI. Volunteers who require a DBS check at any level can get them free of charge.

Processing Time

Access NI performs well in comparison to other parts of the UK when it comes to processing and issuing certificates to employees and volunteers.  Access NI’s own target is that 95% of applications are processed and returned within 14 days. Up to date data is available on their website indicating how well the service has performed over the past week, and usually targets are exceeded, with current processing time being one day for basic and standard checks, and six days for the more detailed enhanced checks. Lead times may be longer for people who have moved around a lot within Northern Ireland, or who have lived and worked in other parts of the UK.

Applying to Access NI

The easiest and quickest way of having your Access NI check done is to apply online. The website for Access NI is part of the NI Direct service from the government and there are step by step instructions about what you need to fill in depending on your circumstances. You will first need to create an Access NI account, which lets you firstly complete the application and then log back into your account at a later date to see how the application is progressing. Some registered organisation may use paper application forms, and these are completed in the same way. Processing time for paper applications is the same, but remember to factor in any postage and delivery times. The type of information disclosed on an Access NI certificate is the same as on other types of certificate and the level of detail will depend on the type of checks done.