Nobody likes waiting. Its inconvenient, boring and frustrating. When it comes to getting your DBS check processed you might have to be extremely patient indeed, as figures widely reported showed than in the London area, applicants for enhanced disclosure checks were waiting up to three months for their paperwork to come back, far exceeding the government’s own target of two weeks. These are people who are applying for jobs working with children or vulnerable adults, so it’s important to make sure that people with a serious criminal past or have shown worrying behaviour towards children in the past don’t slip through the net. But on the other hand, it seems unfair to have staff unable to start work because of delays in the system. The Adult First programme was introduced to get around the waiting period, and can be used in certain circumstances.

How Adult First Works

The aim of Adult First is to provide a partial checking service for employers to help them weed out the most serious offenders, and allow employees to start work under some restrictions while they are waiting for the full check. Adult First checks the details given by the employee against the Barring List, an electronic database held by the DBS containing the names of people convicted of serious crimes who have been legally banned from ever working with children or vulnerable adults again. If the name of the applicant doesn’t appear on this list, they might be allowed to start working, pending a full check.

Who Qualifies for Adult First Checking?

Adult First is a checking process for the care sector only, so applies to companies who are hiring staff to work in a residential care home, or to go into clients’ homes and help them with daily tasks or personal care. It does not apply to other sectors, or to people who are going to be working exclusively with children, or with children as well as adults.

Applying for Adult First

Adult First is not a separate programme from the DBS, it is a first stage of checking designed to provide a fast response. When applying for an enhanced DBS check for a new employee, the employer ticks the box relating to Adult First on the application form. DBS will then do a preliminary search of the records and will respond with one of the two following phrases:

  • Registered body must wait for the DBS certificate
  • No match exists for this person on the current adults’ barred list

What Happens Next

The first of the two phrases above indicates that there might be a match for the details on the Barred Lists, but that more investigation is needed. If a candidate has a very common name, confusion could easily occur. Similarly, the “no match exists” statement doesn’t mean that the candidate has a clear criminal record either. Employers are usually advised to ensure that workers are carefully supervised during the period of their wait for their full enhanced DBS check to be processed.