Most workers and employers are aware that a DBS check involves a criminal records search, and that it is essential for many jobs. These checks are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service though, which is a government organisation independent of the police. There are, however, some circumstances in which a DBS check will be looked over by a police officer too.
Basic and standard disclosure checks involve a search of the police database, and the disclosure of the applicant’s convictions and cautions according to the rules set out by the DBS about what can be disclosed and when. The police don’t need to be involved in this, and the certificates will be completed by DBS staff and sent out to applicants. Enhanced disclosures are a different matter though, as there is an extra layer of checking which can only be carried out by a police officer.
Along with convictions and cautions, an enhanced disclosure check will look at “intelligence” and other information on the police database which could call into question someone’s suitability for a role working with children or vulnerable adults. This intelligence could include information about repeated arrests for crimes which never got to the charging stage, complaints from previous employers, or any other information which the police hold on their computer and think might be relevant.
That doesn’t mean that the police will just print out everything they have on their database and attach it to your DBS certificate if you are applying for an enhanced disclosure. Whether they are considering your criminal cautions and convictions, or other intelligence, the police go through a process called “filtering”. This, as the name suggests, involves the police looking at the information in front of them, looking at the position which you have applied for, and filtering out anything too old, too minor, or too irrelevant. The aim of the police is to strike the delicate balance between allowing people with a criminal past to make a fresh start and protecting some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Another common misconception is that you need a “clean” record to be allowed to work with children or vulnerable adults. That’s not the case at all. Someone with a very minor criminal record may have it filtered out, and even if it is still disclosed, an employer might still decide to still take someone on with a criminal record, especially if they have lots of other relevant experience and good qualities.
Can I Choose My Disclosure Level?
The sort of disclosure check you will need depends on the work you will be doing. You have no say in the matter, and neither does your employer, as the form of disclosure needed for each job is set out by law. There are lots of lists online detailing exactly which jobs fall into each category; in general terms, the jobs which fall into the top tier requiring an enhanced disclosure are ones where staff are having close contact with children, or in healthcare settings with patients.