If you work in a business with people who need DBS checks then there may be occasions when you need to report them to the DBS. This is called a barring referral. There is a lot of misunderstanding about DBS checks and barring, who can make them and what the end result of a referral may be.


Who can Refer and What Is It?

A barring referral is a formal notification to the DBS from an employer or voluntary organisation about someone working or volunteering for them. Usually this happens after the organisation has completed their own internal safeguarding process and has found that the member of staff concerned has caused harm or danger to another person. Barring referrals can’t be made by parents about nursery staff, or about members of the public about family members, friends or acquaintances. In most cases of people working with children or vulnerable adults, the employee has a legal duty to report to the DBS. This is to stop employers getting rid of a troublesome employee quietly, allowing them to move on to another setting and commit the same offences.


What Offences Qualify?

The DBS legislation talks a lot about harm, and that people must be referred to the Police or DBS if they harm a child or vulnerable person who they are looking after. Harm is not defined in law however, so is fairly ambiguous. As far as the law is concerned, harm covers everything from sexual or physical abuse through financial abuse, neglect or verbal abuse. If this has happened, then you must make a referral to the DBS in addition to any other reports you might have made to the Local Council, NHS Trust or other body. Referrals are easiest to do online, although there is a paper form also available. The DBS has a dedicated referral helpline to answer any questions about the process, or whether or not something constitutes harm.


What Happens Next?

If you’ve made a barring referral about someone, you must also take steps to make sure that the person can do no further harm to your organisation, or the people they are working with. Again, there is no legal step by step guide to follow as every situation will be different. Most companies will suspend the member of staff concerned and start disciplinary processes which may or may not end in dismissal.

The DBS usually waits for the outcome of any police action or court case involving the person who has been referred to them. If the behaviour is not criminal but does pass the test of being “harm”, then the DBS may still decide to formally bar. If someone’s name is placed on a barring list, this means they are legally blocked from applying for similar jobs working with children or adults in the future. The length of the bar may vary too but is often for life. If you know that your name is on a barred list, it’s a criminal offence to apply for a job you’re barred from.