One of the largest groups of people who need to have a DBS check are people who are employed in roles working with children. In fact, one of the most common DBS myths is that it’s only people who work with children who need a criminal record check at all. This is untrue; the group of people who need a check into their background is much more extensive. If you are working with children, then the chances are you’ll need a DBS check. If you’re new to the process, then don’t be daunted. Getting your certificate isn’t as tricky as you might think.


Legal Definition of Child

There is a bit of a grey area in the UK with older teenagers. Are young people aged 16 and 17 children, or adults, or a bit of both? Even though the path to adulthood starts at 16 with some freedoms and responsibilities, as far as the DBS is concerned, everyone under the age of 18 is a child, and everyone aged 18 or older is an adult. This causes a lot of confusion because it means that at 16 or 17-year-old who is working as an apprentice in a nursery or even coaching young people of the same age in sport require a DBS check to do so, even when they’re working with people older than they are. This has changed since the days of the CRB application process, where children over 14 were asked to have checks. The minimum age for a DBS check in all parts of the UK is now 16.


Enhanced DBS Checks

There are three levels of DBS checks in the UK, and for most jobs working with children, an enhanced disclosure check is required. This is the most detailed level of checking and will look at not only a candidate’s current criminal record, but also anything in their more distant past which might call into question their suitability to work with children. That doesn’t mean automatic disclosure of any and all information on your criminal record though. The DBS apply a process called filtering, whereby the police will look at the information on your record and assess it against the work you will be doing. It’s a fine balance about protecting the safety of children and giving ex-offenders the chance to make a fresh start. Safeguarding of children is always of critical importance, and police will usually come down on the side of disclosing information if there is any risk at all to children.

One aspect of the law that catches lots of people out is that only people who are working with children on a regular basis need a DBS check. Regular is defined as four times in a month, or once a week. People working or volunteering with children less frequently than that don’t require a DBS check, although most safeguarding policies will have something about unchecked members of staff or volunteers not being left alone with children. This means that parents helping out at Cubs on a once per term rota or accompanying their child’s class on a school trip don’t need to go through the DBS checking process first.



The application process for an enhanced check is just the same as it is for other levels of check. First, complete the form, either using traditional pen and paper or more commonly online. The form isn’t designed to catch you out; but you need to take care over its completion. If you misunderstand what is being asked in terms of your address history or names, your application might just be rejected as soon as it arrives at the DBS. If you are unsure about what information is required in each box, then check online for clarification or give the DBS a call to ask for their advice on your specific circumstances.

You will also be asked to show the originals of a range of identity documents which prove that you are who you say you are. There are lots of ways of doing this. Some people will be able to complete the process entirely online, others will have to show original documents to their employer, either in person or on a video call. Then after your application is submitted to the DBS, the police force will carry out the relevant checks, into your current criminal record as well as any other information which is held on record about you.


Safeguarding and Working with Children

Most companies employing workers in jobs dealing with children are well aware that safeguarding doesn’t start and end with a DBS check. Any school, sports club or voluntary organisation dealing with children should have a comprehensive safeguarding strategy, of which getting DBS checks for members of staff is just a small part.