What we do
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children. It replaces the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
We are responsible for:
- processing requests for criminal records checks (DBS checks)
- deciding whether it is appropriate for a person to be placed on or removed from a barred list
- placing or removing people from the DBS children’s barred list and adults’ barred list for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We search police records and, in relevant cases, barred list information, and then issue a DBS certificate to the applicant. Find out more about the DBS check process.
We recognise that information released on DBS certificates can be extremely sensitive and personal. Therefore a code of practice for recipients of criminal record information has been developed to ensure that any information they get is handled fairly and used properly.
A list of guidance documents about the DBS checking service is available on this website.
DBS check eligibility
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 DBS 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, read our eligibility guide.
Referrals are made to us when an employer or organisation, eg a regulatory body, has concerns that a person has caused harm, or poses a future risk of harm to vulnerable groups, including children.
In these circumstances the employer must make a referral to the DBS, though this is not obligatory for regulatory bodies.
A list of guidance documents about DBS referrals is available for you to read.
We make fair, consistent and thorough barring decisions that are an appropriate response to the harm that has occurred, as well as the risk of harm posed.
We are keenly aware of the impact barring or not barring can have both to the person under consideration and also those with whom they have or could have come into contact. Often very difficult and finely balanced decisions have to be made.
There are three main ways cases come to us:
- autobars - there are 2 types of automatic barring cases where a person has been cautioned or convicted for a ‘relevant offence’:
automatic barring without representations offences will result in the person being placed in a barred list(s) by the DBS irrespective of whether they work in regulated activity
automatic barring with representations offences may, subject to the consideration of representations and whether the DBS believes that the person has worked in regulated activity, is working in regulated activity or may in future work in regulated activity, this may also result in the person being placed on a DBS barred list(s)
disclosure information - where a person has applied for a DBS certificate to work with children or vulnerable adults with a check of one or both barred lists and their certificate reveals they have a criminal history
referrals from an organisation that has a legal duty or power to make referrals to DBS: typically there is a duty, in certain circumstances, on employers to make a referral to the DBS when they have dismissed or removed an employee from working in regulated activity, following harm to a child or vulnerable adult or where there is a risk of harm
Test for regulated activity
A new test for regulated activity has been introduced which means the DBS can only bar a person from working within regulated activity with children or adults if we believe the person is or 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 in a barred list.
Additionally, 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.
Who we work with
We work with the police, who provide information that is held locally or on the police national computer.
When disclosing information held locally, the police follow the quality assurance framework developed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the DBS.
ACPO is now as known as the The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).
We also work with:
Home Office - sponsor the DBS
Department for Education - owns the safeguarding policy for children
Department of Health - owns the safeguarding policy for vulnerable groups
You can read more about how we work with these government departments in the DBS framework.
ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) - manages criminal record information and improves the exchange of criminal records and biometric information.
TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) - private sector partner that operates an administration infrastructure and call centre for our disclosure service
registered bodies - organisations that have registered with the DBS checking service, and are the primary point of contact for:
- checking disclosure applications and validating information provided by the applicant
- establishing the identity of the applicant
- submitting fully completed application forms
- countersigning application forms to confirm entitlement
Subscribe to find out more
If you want to hear more hear more from the DBS, and keep up-to-date with information, you can subscribe to our e-database.
Bills and legislation
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 set out the scope and operation of the vetting and barring scheme.
The Criminal Records Bureau was established under Part V of the Police Act 1997.
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.
Access our information
Jobs and contracts
Read about the types of information we routinely publish in our Publication scheme. Find out about our commitment to publishing in the Welsh language scheme. Our Personal information charter explains how we treat your personal information.