One of the criticisms of government guidance across the board is that it is too general, and that it’s hard to find guidance which is tailored to individual circumstances. This is especially the case with DBS and disclosure checking guidance, and to be fair to the government, it would be impossible to come up with a set of guidance which takes into account every conceivable set of circumstances. Recently however the DBS has working with a body called Strengthening Faith Institutions (SFI) to create DBS guidance aimed at a range of religious groups.
The SFI has drawn up a detailed list of what “regulated activity” could mean when talking about a faith centre, of any religion. Only workers and volunteers who are engaged in regulated activity are eligible for the most detailed enhanced disclosure checks. This could include teaching children or giving religious instruction to those under the age of 18, driving children to or from religious based groups, or driving a group of disabled or frail adults to a community centre on behalf of a faith group.
Volunteers are covered by the DBS legislation as well as workers, and there is no exemption for any type of religious workers from the requirement. There is lots of information online, and the SFI has pages on their website talking about the different roles which may be found in various religious settings and which level of disclosure applies. For example, a teacher in a mosque leading instruction teachers for children needs an enhanced check, but someone leading sermons for the whole congregation only needs a basic check.
Application Process for Faith Groups
There is no separate application process for faith groups, so applicants will have to follow exactly the same procedure as anyone else. One potential drawback is that forms are only available in English, Welsh, and Scottish Gaelic, which can prove a barrier to any members of a religious organisation who struggle with formal written English. Providing a point of contact for volunteers and workers to assist with completing forms and answering questions can really pay off in the long run. After the applicant has completed the form, the next stage in the process is showing documents such as passport, driving licence and bank statements or bills to prove both names and address.
Although individuals can submit their own applications for basic disclosures, only an approved third party – known as an umbrella body – can submit applications for the more detailed level of checks. The SFI operates as an umbrella body but using them is not compulsory should faith groups prefer to use a different provider. The umbrella body will check that everything is correct on the form, and that the identity checks have been carried out correctly. They will then submit the applications to the DBS and then keep the applicants up to speed with how their application is progressing. Once all of the checks have been completed, the DBS will send the certificate out to the applicant, not to the umbrella body or to the religious group requesting it.