Disclosure and Barring Service: criminal record checks and referrals
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions. It also prevents unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children, through its criminal record checking and barring functions.
DBS was established when the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) merged in 2012.
This guide describes how the DBS criminal record checking service works. It also provides details of how and when to make referrals to DBS. It includes details of fees, links to factsheets for referral bodies and information on the Welsh language scheme.
You can also see the guide to requesting checks for employers.
Criminal record checking
The checking service allows employers to access the criminal record history of people working, or seeking to work, in certain positions, especially those that involve working with children or adults in specific situations.
If you have a query about an application, find out how to contact the DBS.
Eligibility to ask ‘an exempted question’
For DBS checking an exempted question is a valid request for a person to reveal their full criminal history. This excludes protected cautions and convictions that will be filtered from a criminal record check.
Access to the DBS checking service is only available to registered employers who are entitled by law to ask an individual to reveal their full criminal history (other than protected cautions and convictions), including spent convictions - also known as asking ‘an exempted question’.
An exempted question applies when the individual will be working in specific occupations, for certain licenses and specified positions. These are covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.
The minimum age at which someone can be asked to apply for a criminal record check is 16 years old.
To find out more information about who is eligible for a criminal record check, download the DBS eligibility guide.
Stages of the DBS checking process
The DBS checking process involves several different stages before an applicant receives their certificate.
Stage 1 - application form received and validated
The application form is checked for errors or omissions. Within 24 hours of receipt the form is either scanned onto the DBS computer system or returned for correction to the countersignatory.
Stage 2 - Police National Computer searched
Stage 3 - children and adults lists searched, where applicable
Stage 4 - records held by the police searched
Enhanced checks are sent by secure, electronic means to the police for an additional check of local records before the information is sent back to the DBS.
Stage 5 - DBS certificate printed
All the information to be disclosed is printed under highly secure procedures and sent to the applicant.
Types of check
Organisations who are entitled to use the DBS checking service can ask successful job applicants to apply for one of the following types of check depending on the job role:
- standard check - details of an individual’s convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings recorded on police central records and includes both ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions
- enhanced check - the same details as a standard check, together with any information held locally by police forces that it is reasonably considered might be relevant to the post applied for
- enhanced with a barred list check:
- child barred list information is only available for those individuals engaged in regulated activity with children and a small number of posts as listed in the Police Act regulations, for example prospective adoptive parents
- adult barred list is only available for those individuals engaged in regulated activity with adults and a small number of posts as listed in the Police Act regulations
- child and adult barred list is only available for those individuals engaged in regulated activity with both vulnerable groups including children and a small number of posts as listed in the Police Act regulations
- adult first - an individual can be checked against the DBS adult barred list while waiting for the full criminal record check to be completed
DBS charges a fee to process applications for criminal record checks.
Both standard and enhanced checks require a fee. The fees to process criminal record checks are:
- standard DBS criminal record check - £26
- enhanced DBS criminal record check - £44
- enhanced DBS criminal record check and barred list check (child) - £44
- enhanced DBS criminal record check and barred list check (adult) - £44
- enhanced DBS criminal record check and barred list check (both) - £44
- DBS adult first check - £6
Criminal record checks for volunteers
DBS criminal record checks are free of charge to volunteers. The DBS defines a volunteer as:
‘A person engaged in an activity which involves spending time, unpaid (except for travel and other approved out-of-pocket expenses), doing something which aims to benefit some third party other than, or in addition to, a close relative.’
DBS offers a confidential checking process for transgender applicants.
This process is for transgender applicants who do not wish to reveal details of their previous identity to the person who asked them to complete an application form for a DBS certificate.
For further information please contact the DBS by:
- sending an email to the DBS sensitive applications team
Individuals and the self-employed cannot apply for a DBS certificate of their own criminal record, as they cannot ask an exempted question of themselves.
Options currently available are:
- a self-employed person who is eligible for a DBS check can ask the organisation that wishes to contract their services to apply for their DBS check
- individuals can get a basic check from Disclosure Scotland which provides details of any ‘unspent’ convictions
Referrals and barring
The barring side of the DBS provides expert caseworkers who process referrals about individuals who have harmed or pose a risk of harm to children and/or vulnerable groups. They make decisions about who should be placed on the child barred list and/or adults barred list and are prevented by law from working with children or vulnerable groups.
Referrals should be made to DBS when an employer or organisation believes a person has caused harm or poses a future risk of harm to vulnerable groups, including children.
For some groups there is a legal duty to refer, it is therefore important that you understand your legal requirements. You can fill out the DBS referral form.
Further information is available in the DBS referrals factsheets
The following have a duty to refer:
- regulated activity suppliers (employers and volunteer managers)
- personnel suppliers
Power to refer
Under the provisions of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, 2006, the following groups have the power to make a referral to the DBS:
- local authorities (safeguarding role)
- education and library boards
- health and social care (HSC) trusts (NI)
- keepers of registers eg General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council
- supervisory authorities eg Care Quality Commission, Ofsted
An employer or volunteer manager is breaking the law if they knowingly employ someone in a regulated activity with a group from which they are barred from working.
A barred person is breaking the law if they seek, offer or engage in regulated activity with a group from which they are barred from working, be it paid or voluntary.
Referring a teacher in England to the National College for Teaching and Leadership
If the person you are referring to the DBS is a teacher in England you should also consider referring the case to the The National College for Teaching and Leadership. This is an Executive Agency of the Department for Education, responsible for the regulation of teachers in respect of serious misconduct.
Find out more at the Department for Education website or contact it using the details below.
The National College for Teaching and Leadership: Teaching regulation division
53-55 Butts Road
Telephone: 0370 496 8324
Referrals and barring queries
If you have a query:
- ring DBS on 01325 953795
- email email@example.com
- write to -
PO Box 181
The DBS cannot guarantee the security of information until it is in our possession, and will not take responsibility for the confidentiality of such information until it is received by us. For this reason we recommend sending referrals and related information by registered post, however, queries and other items less than 10MB in size can be emailed to us via the email address above.
Welsh language service
Under the Welsh Language Act 1993, every public body providing services to the public in Wales is required to implement a Welsh language scheme setting out how it will provide those services in Welsh.
The DBS provides the facility for customers to apply in Welsh for a DBS criminal record check, to contact the DBS either via the telephone or through written correspondence in Welsh. DBS checking service guidance material is also available in Welsh.
The Welsh language line number for checking service enquiries is 0870 90 90 223.
We operate two Welsh language schemes because of the merger of the two legacy organisations (Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority). We will merge both schemes into one for DBS during 2013.
DBS certificates cannot be printed and issued in Welsh. This is because under Part V of the Police Act 1997, the DBS is required to disclose criminal records and other government information as it is recorded in central records. Because this information is recorded in English only, DBS certificates will be issued only in English.
The DBS does not have the authority to translate information and has identified inherent risk to the integrity and accuracy of the DBS service should certificate information be translated.
In addition, where information is to be disputed, there would be an additional need to revert to English for consideration of the original information.
Welsh language application complaints
If you have submitted a DBS criminal record check application in Welsh and you are unhappy with the Welsh service you have received from the DBS, you should in the first instance make a complaint to the DBS.
If you remain dissatisfied with the final response from the DBS Chief Executive you can take your complaint to the Welsh Language Commissioner and they will investigate on your behalf.
The DBS works to a number of service standards as part of our commitment to providing a first class checking service. Our performance is measured against our published service standards.
Complaints and disputes
See the DBS complaints process.
As part of our commitment to provide a high standard of customer service we welcome all comments or suggestions on how we might improve our service.
Content of a DBS certificate can be challenged or disputed if it contains an error, or inaccurate or irrelevant information. Challenges and disputes should be made immediately by contacting the DBS and should be raised within 3 months of the date of issue on the certificate.
The applicant, or a person who has a legitimate interest in the accuracy of a certificate such as the countersignatory; employer; or licensing authority may raise the dispute after discussing the reasons for the dispute with the applicant.
A profile dispute is where personal information on the DBS certificate appears to be incorrect including:
- date of birth
- place of birth
- address details
- employer’s details
- registered body/countersignatory details
To raise a profile dispute please call 0870 90 90 811 (and select option 2) or alternatively refer to the Certificate disputes and fingerprint consent guidance and forms.
A disclosure dispute is where any of the following has arisen:
- conviction details not relating to the applicant have been disclosed on the certificate
- conviction details relating to the applicant have been disclosed but some elements of the conviction details are incorrect
- information approved by the police for disclosure is considered to be inaccurate or irrelevant (please also see independent monitor review section below)
To help disassociate an applicant from a record for some disclosure disputes we must ask the applicant to provide their consent to have their fingerprints taken by their local police force to help disassociate them from the criminal record.
To raise a disclosure dispute refer to the certificate disputes and fingerprint consent guidance and forms.
The DBS will fully investigate the dispute, and if necessary arrange for the external organisation that owns the disputed information to investigate the matter urgently.
If after investigation the dispute is upheld we will arrange for a replacement certificate to be issued.
Independent monitor review
The independent monitor was established in September 2012 and part of the role provides applicants with the right of appeal against the inclusion of approved information on a DBS enhanced disclosure certificate.
When a request for an enhanced certificate is made, an individual’s details are referred to any police force that may hold information about the individual. This allows them to check their records for any information which they believe to be relevant to the workforce
The independent monitor will look at the content of the additional information section of the enhanced certificate. Any dispute about the inclusion of caution or conviction data on other parts of the certificate would need to be referred to the police force in question. If the disclosure has errors or inaccuracies these are dealt with by the disputes team at the DBS.
The independent monitor can only give consideration to a referral where the applicant believes that the information is either:
- not relevant to the job or position applied for, or
- should not to be included in the certificate.
If you wish to make a referral to the independent monitor, please complete form(s) AF15a & AF14a or write to:
Customer services (disputes)
Disclosure and Barring Service
1st Floor West
P.O. Box 165
Tel: 0151 676 1953
The DBS will refer your application to the relevant police service on behalf of the independent monitor to give the chief officer the opportunity to consider your dispute first.
If you are not satisfied with the police dispute response, your case will be referred to the independent monitor.