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Many people aren’t aware that there are different levels of checking carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service and think that the same types of checks are carried out on everyone. Most of the publicity about police checks and criminal records are about the most detailed level of DBS, the Enhanced Disclosure.
A lot of the confusion about DBS comes from the fact that terms have changed over time. Checks used to be carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and people will still talk about having a CRB done. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the systems are different, and similar checks are done by Disclosure Scotland under the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme or AccessNI. The aims of all of the different bodies are the same; to stop people with a serious criminal past being employed with children or vulnerable adults.
The types of jobs which require enhanced disclosure checking are set by the government – employers can’t pick and choose who gets checked and who doesn’t. There is a full list of jobs which require enhanced disclosure available online, and in general these include jobs and voluntary roles which involve working with children, in care homes, hospitals or social work. Employers have a bit of flexibility over disclosure information and it’s not illegal to employ someone to work in a care home or school if they have a criminal record. Employers will look at the information presented on your DBS certificate and decide whether or not to offer you the job. Minor convictions for shoplifting or being drunk in your distant past aren’t likely to be held against you; more recent convictions or a string of convictions might. It’s usually best to be upfront with your employer if you know that your DBS check will throw up convictions or other information.
Applying for a DBS
You’re not allowed to apply for a DBS for yourself, the application has to come from your employer, or from the organisation you will be volunteering with. The process can be mostly completed online, but you will be asked to bring some paperwork such as passport, driving licence and utility bill to your employer to prove who you are. Once your employer has verified your identity, the form will be sent off to the DBS or other relevant body for checking. Certificates will then be sent out to the applicant’s home address.
Getting an enhanced DBS can be time-consuming, and as employers might not want you to start work until it comes through, the DBS update service can be extremely useful. This service does mean you are charged an additional fee, but once set up, employers can log into the DBS website using your details and see your certificate details on screen. Your record will also be instantly updated if any new convictions or cautions are added to your record. Having access to DBS Update means your record can be checked almost instantaneously, and employers can let you start working right away.