There is a lot of confusion around young people under the age of 18 and whether or not they need a DBS check. This is mostly down to a 2012 change in the legislation around criminal records checking, with people confused about which system to follow.
There are thousands of young people under the age of 18 working or volunteering in the UK. Some are working full time or undertaking an apprenticeship which combines work with time at college. Others might have a part time job which fits around school or college. Another group are undertaking something like the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, which requires young people to volunteer. If you’re a manager of a care home and a 16-year-old approaches you asking to volunteer, do they need a DBS check or not?
Pre-2012 Rules and Confusion
Before the Disclosure and Barring Service was set up in 2012, there was a separate body called the Criminal Records Bureau which processed police checks. It’s still common to hear people talking about “getting a CRB check”. Under the CRB, anyone over the age of 13 could apply for a CRB check. It was therefor common for young people to get checks for voluntary positions or work experience.
In 2012 and with the introduction of the DBS, the age for criminal records checks was increased to 16, although the age of criminal responsibility remained unchanged. So now, employers and voluntary organisations taking on children aged 13, 14 or 15 in a role which would ordinarily involve a DBS check are now no longer able to run a DBS check. For this reason, most organisations have a policy of not allowing people under the age of 16 to volunteer without direct supervision in these roles. This is as much about protecting the young person as it is about safeguarding the people they are volunteering with.
16 and 17-Year-Olds and DBS Checks
Many organisations which have young volunteers will ask for a DBS check as soon as that volunteer reaches 16 years of age. When recruiting a new volunteer, anyone joining the company who is 16 or 17 will need a DBS check. Confusingly, this also covers volunteers or workers who are recruited to work with young people of their own age; for example, a 17-year-old football coach working with a team of 16-year-olds. Similarly, children of foster carers may be asked to complete a DBS check as soon as they turn 16, even if their foster sibling is older than them.
Issues With DBS Checks for Under 18s
There is no separate DBS process for under 18s. The main problem for people of this age is the requirement to provide documents confirming their identity and address. Many people who are still at school or college won’t have utility bills or bank statements in their own name. The DBS will accept in some cases a letter from a school or college principle if other documents aren’t available.