Often when you are browsing through job adverts in the UK, you’ll see phrases such as “subject to enhanced disclosure check” or other phrases relating to protecting vulnerable groups. If you’ve not come across this terminology before it can be confusing, but there are very sound reasons behind the need for this sort of check in certain occupations.

Disclosure and Barring Service

The idea that people applying to work with children, vulnerable adults or being in a position of financial or legal responsibility should be checked over by the Police to make sure that they don’t have a criminal past is not new. Around 15 years ago, the rising number of applications to the Police was rising, and a new Criminal Records Bureau was set up to run the checking process. A check through this body was often referred to as a “CRB Check” and although this organisation ceased to exist in 2012 when it merged with a Safeguarding Association and was renamed as the Disclosure and Barring service, you will still see and hear people talking about getting CRB or Police checks done. The Disclosure and Barring Service is for England and Wales only. In Scotland, the equivalent organisation is Disclosure Scotland, and in Access Northern Ireland performs the same functions there. The organisation you apply to will depend on where you live, and where you will be working.

Who Needs Disclosure?

The aim of the Disclosure service is to protect children and vulnerable adults from exploitation and abuse. There are many different occupations which require checking through one of the organisations such as social work, nursing, care workers, teachers, nursery staff and people working in nursing homes or after school clubs. Checks are also carried out on people who have responsible positions or who work with large sums of money, such as accountants, lawyers and security staff. Employers can only carry out checks on staff who are in jobs which merit a check being done; it is illegal for them to carry out checks on everyone as a matter of course.

What Disclosure Doesn’t Do

Disclosure and checking is an essential safety net to stop serious criminals or sex offenders being given jobs where they have access to children or vulnerable adults. However, employers, employees and people accessing the service must remember that any police checking system is a snapshot of a point in time. It will only record convictions, cautions and any other interactions with the Police which are felt to be relevant. The Disclosure and Barring Service can’t tell you about the character of someone, or whether she or he has offended in the past but not been caught. A thorough Police check is a good starting point for anyone working with vulnerable groups but does not mean that other Child Protection policies can be ignored. Most employers and voluntary organisations will have a designated person whose job it is to deal with these issues, and they are often the best people to refer to with any questions or issues.