The Home Office has recently announced that Fire and Rescue Services in England and Wales will be allowed to carry out Standard DBS checks on all employees. At present, many workers for the Fire Service only have basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. Presently, basic DBS checks show unspent cautions and convictions for an applicant only, while standard DBS checks provide a more comprehensive history about someone’s criminal past by including sent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings.


Home Office Decision

Explaining the move from running basic checks to requiring standard checks, The Home Office said that an increased levels of check will help managers to assess and mitigate risks, safeguard their colleagues and the public, and uphold high standards of professional integrity. Each Fire Service across England and Wales will decide how to implement the new requirements and work out how to manage the process of a higher level of checking for the thousands of staff working for the various Fire Services.

The changes in disclosure checking are a response to a recent report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), commissioned by the Crime, Policing, and Fire Minister. Another review by the London Fire Brigade revealed several examples of bullying, harassment, and discrimination within the services.


Getting a Standard DBS Check

Unlike a basic DBS check which anyone can apply for, a standard or enhanced DBS check is restricted to specific jobs. The announcement by the Home Office that standard checks will be required by Fire Service staff will see these jobs added to the “regulated activity” list. Both new recruits into the Fire Service and existing staff will go through the DBS application process. There are fees associated with getting a standard DBS check, and although it is not a legal requirement for the employer to pay, it seems certain that in this case, the government will meet the cost of disclosure checks for Fire Service workers.

The process for obtaining a standard DBS check is similar to that for the Basic disclosure which most fire service staff will have been through already. Employees will be directed to an online application form which they complete with their personal details such as name, date of birth and address history. At this stage, applicants are also asked to disclose any criminal convictions which they are aware of.

The form is then sent to the DBS for processing, and then to the Police for a search of their databases. All current and unspent criminal convictions and cautions will be disclosed automatically. With older convictions a filtering process takes place, and this is designed to filter out the oldest and least serious convictions, warnings or cautions which are felt to be irrelevant to the position under consideration. Certificates are then returned to the applicant in the post. In most cases, employers will choose to repeat the DBS checks every 3 to 5 years, in order to make sure that there are not any recent convictions they are unaware of.