The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was established in 2012 and carries out the functions previously undertaken by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
Safeguarding is at the heart of everything we do at the DBS.
We are responsible for:
- processing requests for, and issuing, DBS checks for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man
- making considered decisions regarding whether an individual should be barred from engaging in regulated activity with children, adults or both, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- maintaining the children’s and adults’ barred lists
Disclosure checks (DBS checks)
Our disclosure team carries out criminal record checks that result in DBS certificates being issued to an individual. Employers can then ask to see this certificate to ensure that they are recruiting suitable people into their organisation.
There are currently three levels of criminal record check:
- basic check
- standard check
- enhanced check
The information contained on each type of check is different, as is the process for applying.
A basic DBS check is for any purpose, including employment. The certificate will contain details of convictions and conditional cautions that are considered to be unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974.
An individual can apply for a basic check directly to the DBS through our online application route, or an employer can apply for a basic check on an individual’s behalf, through a Responsible Organisation, if they have consent.
A standard DBS check is suitable for certain roles, such as a security guard. The certificate will contain details of both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings that are held on the Police National Computer, which are not subject to filtering.
An individual cannot apply for a standard check by themselves. There must be a recruiting organisation who needs the applicant to get the check. This is then sent to DBS through a registered body.
The service is free for volunteers.
An enhanced DBS check is suitable for people working with children or adults in certain circumstances such as those in receipt of healthcare or personal care. An enhanced check is also suitable for a small number of other roles such as taxi licence applications or people working in the Gambling Commission.
The certificate will contain the same details as a standard certificate and, if the role is eligible, an employer can request that one or both of the DBS barred lists are checked.
The certificate may also contain non-conviction information supplied by a Chief Officer, if they feel it is relevant and ought to be contained in the certificate.
An individual cannot apply for an enhanced check by themselves. There must be a recruiting organisation who needs the applicant to get the check. This is then sent to DBS through a registered body.
The service is free for volunteers.
Eligibility for standard and enhanced checks is prescribed in legislation. Recruiters should only request a DBS check on an individual when they are legally allowed to do so – they must be entitled by law to ask an individual to reveal their full criminal history, known as asking ‘an exempted question.’
An exempted question applies when the individual will be working in specific occupations, for certain licences 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.
We have an eligibility tool that can be used to find out what roles or activities could be eligible for a standard or enhanced check, or you can read our eligibility guidance.
Where requested, an enhanced certificate will also include a check of one or both of the DBS barred lists. If an individual is listed, this will appear on their DBS certificate.
It is our responsibility at the DBS to maintain these lists. This area of our work involves making fair, consistent and thorough decisions that are appropriate to the behaviour that has occurred, and considering the risk of future harm.
People are brought to the attention of our barring team in one of three ways:
- automatic barring offence – also known as autobar
Automatic – also known as autobar
This is when someone has been newly convicted or cautioned for a serious offence and they are considered for immediate barring, either with or without the opportunity to make representations. This information comes from the Police National Computer.
This is when someone applies for an enhanced DBS check to work with children or adults in certain circumstances, such as those in receipt of healthcare or personal care, and the check reveals relevant information that results in the individual being considered for inclusion on one or both of the barred lists.
This is when an employer, volunteer manager or other organisation has concerns that someone has either caused harm or has the potential to cause harm to vulnerable groups and submits a referral to the DBS.
Regulated activity providers (employers or volunteer managers of people working in regulated activity in England, Wales or Northern Ireland) and personnel suppliers have a legal duty to refer to DBS where conditions are met.
Referrals can be made online or via post. To submit an online referral, create a DBS online account and once logged in, select ‘Submit a referral’. Alternatively, you can complete the DBS paper referral form and send to:
Disclosure and Barring Service
PO Box 3963
Royal Wootton Bassett
It is important that anyone referring someone to us provides as much information as possible. More information regarding barring referrals can be found here.
Where an individual is the subject of any of the above three barring referral types (excluding ‘autobar without representation’), the individual will be given the opportunity to provide representations as to why they feel it would be inappropriate or disproportionate for the DBS to include them in one or both of the barred lists.
The DBS will consider the representations before making a final barring decision. Further information about barring representations can be found here.
Test for regulated activity
The DBS can only bar a person from working within regulated activity with children or adults if we believe the person is, has been, or might in the future be, engaged in regulated activity.
The only exception to this is where a person is cautioned or convicted for a relevant (automatic barring) offence and is not eligible to submit representations against their inclusion on a barred list.
Where a person is cautioned or convicted of a relevant (automatic barring) offence with the right to make representations, the DBS will ask the person to submit their representations and consider them before making a final barring decision.
The update service is an online subscription, for standard and enhanced checks only, that allows applicants to keep their DBS certificates up to date and allows employers to view an applicant’s certificate.
The update service cannot currently be used for basic checks.
Who we work with
The DBS works with a number of different organisations and departments, including but not limited to:
- Police forces in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man – the police provide information that is held locally, or on the Police National Computer
- ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) – manages criminal record information and improves the exchange of criminal records and biometric information
- Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) – a private sector partner that operates an administration infrastructure and call centre for our disclosure service
- Responsible organisations – a responsible organisation is an organisation that has registered with the DBS to submit basic DBS checks
A registered body is an organisation that has registered with the DBS to submit standard and enhanced checks, and is entitled by law to ask an individual to reveal their full criminal history – also known as asking ‘an exempted question’
Subscribe to DBS updates
If you want to be notified when an update is made to the DBS GOV.UK website, or new content is added, you can subscribe with your email address, here.
Bills and legislation
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 sets out in legislation rehabilitation periods, and that individuals do not have to disclose spent convictions unless they are covered in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1975 (Exceptions) Order 1975.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1975 (Exceptions) Order 1975 sets out the exceptions for when an individual can be asked about spent convictions – known as asking ‘an exempted question’.
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 sets out the scope of regulated activity and operation of the barring element of DBS, which was previously undertaken by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
The Criminal Records Bureau, which is now part of the DBS, was established under Part V of the Police Act 1997. This was updated as a result of Part 5 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
Part 5 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 covers the reduction in scope of the definition of regulated activity, new services provided by the DBS, and disregarding convictions and cautions for consensual gay sex.
A list of DBS contact points is available on the homepage.