We don’t seem to have got our heads properly around the definition of “child” and “adult” in the UK. In many cases, adulthood starts at 18, when you can vote, drink, buy cigarettes, take out a credit card and live independently. Others define 16 as being an adult, as that’s the age you can leave school to go to college or into an apprenticeship, or get married. Those two years between 16 and 18 are most definitely a grey area – not really a child, but not legally an adult either. Those legal grey areas are particularly an issue when it comes to 16 or 17 year olds applying for work or voluntary roles which would require a DBS check.


What Roles are Involved?

There are no special rules for youngsters applying for DBS checks. If an adult applying for a role as a nursery nurse or healthcare assistant would undergo checking, then an under 18 has to be checked out too. There are many thousands of 16 and 17 year olds both working in part time jobs around education and on Apprenticeships in roles requiring DBS checking. Different levels of checking will be required depending on the role, and employers will be able to give guidance on this. Most 16 and 17 year olds in this situation will be in healthcare or education jobs, working with children or vulnerable adults. It’s important to note that although the old Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check allowed for checking of children as young as 13, the minimum age for checks done by the DBS is 13. If you are applying for checks in Northern Ireland or Scotland, different rules may apply.


Difficulties in Proving Identity

The main sticking point for many 16 and 17 year olds in getting a DBS check done is the very first step of proving their identity and address. If the young person doesn’t have a passport and are too young to drive, the list of identity documents which are accepted is very limited. Similarly with address, a person this age who is still living at home will struggle to provide utility bills or council tax statements with their name. Even if they have a bank account, they might not have paper statements sent out. In these cases there is the option of having written statements from a Headteacher or other person in a position of trust to confirm the identity of the person applying for the DBS, but this takes time and can lead to delays in getting the process underway.


Confidentiality of Information

Whatever the age of the person applying for DBS checks, there is a legal obligation on the employer to keep information confidential. DBS checks are issued to the individual, who then shows the form to their employer. Employers shouldn’t really be keeping copies of certificates, just noting that a valid certificate has been seen is sufficient. DBS checks are usually repeated every two or three years, depending on the policy of the organisation concerned.