Recent changes to legislation mean that anyone considering a career in the Fire and Rescue service will have to undergo stricter DBS checks. The government announced the changes, which took place in April 2023, as an attempt to increase standards, and improve both safeguarding and the quality of the fire and rescue service for the general public. Although these changes should not affect anyone currently working at the fire and rescue service, it could affect anyone thinking of applying for a position with them in the future.


Basic DBS Checks

Under the previous legislation, people working for the Fire and Rescue Service – whether in a fire station or in the control room – only required a basic DBS check. Anyone can apply for a basic DBS check, and the certificate will show unspent convictions and cautions only. A basic DBS check is not linked to any specific occupation or industry, and many companies will run a basic DBS check on workers as a standard part of their pre-employment vetting. A basic DBS check cannot tell you someone’s full life story but is a basic guarantee that they have been honest in the past few years. Or at least, that they’ve not been charged and convicted of anything. As the basic DBS checks are not linked to any position, self-employed people can also apply for this level of check as a character reference to show potential customers.


Standard DBS Checks

The change in legislation in April means that going forward, fire service workers will require a standard DBS check rather than the basic. A standard DBS check is the next step up in terms of the detail the certificate may provide. In addition to the unspent convictions and cautions which appear on the basic disclosure, a standard DBS check will also show older convictions or cautions which would be considered spent under other circumstances. Adding in this extra layer of checking should ensure that someone with an extensive criminal past cannot get a job which involves so much responsibility. Each fire service across England and Wales will decide how to apply the new checks to their recruitment process, and it is likely that the new level of checking will only apply to new starts rather than being applied to existing members of staff.


Why Is Reform Needed?

Two recently commissioned government reports into the culture at the Fire Service found widespread problems with bullying, discrimination, and harassment across the country. Announcing the changes to the system, the Fire Minister indicated that more detailed DBS checks were a way of raising standards and improving integrity among officers and staff. It is hoped that having stricter checks for members of staff creates a culture where members of the public are better protected, and staff are respected and valued at work. The government is also implementing other measures to improve performance at the fire service, such as creating a code of ethics, and hosting a conference to discuss culture and performance across the fire services in England and Wales.