Helping employers make safer recruiting decisions


Employers need to identify candidates who may be unsuitable for certain jobs, especially work that involves vulnerable groups including children.

The government needs to make sure there are effective and secure ways for employers to do this.


The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) provides criminal records checking and barring functions to help employers make safe recruitment decisions.

Referrals and barring

Expert caseworkers process referrals from employers and organisations about individuals who have harmed or pose a risk of harm to vulnerable groups, including children.

We then decide who should be placed on the children’s barred list and/or adults’ barred list and prevented by law from working with these groups.

Criminal records checking

The criminal record 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 vulnerable groups.

The checking service is supported by additional online services, including:

  • the umbrella organisation search facility that gives employers the opportunity to search for an organisation to process DBS checks on their behalf
  • the online application tracking service that allows applicants and countersignatories to follow the progress of applications through the various stages of the checking process
  • the adult first service that allows an individual to be checked against the DBS adults’ barred list while waiting for a full criminal record check to be completed
  • the e-bulk service, which is available to certain registered bodies, allows DBS customers to submit multiple electronic applications for DBS checks and receive results back electronically
  • the update service that lets applicants keep their DBS certificates up to date online and allows employers to check a certificate online

Find out more about criminal records checks and referrals. Guidance is also available for employers on making DBS check requests.


The DBS was established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and started operating on 1 December 2012. It carries out the functions previously undertaken by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) for England and Wales and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Before December 2012, the CRB was established under part 5 of the Police Act 1997 and from March 2002 provided the criminal records checking service.

In 2004 the Bichard Inquiry recommended the creation of a registration scheme for everyone working with children or vulnerable adults. This led to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and the creation of the vetting and barring scheme.

Under the vetting and barring scheme, the Independent Safeguarding Authority’s role was to make barring decisions and maintain both the children’s barred list and the adults’ barred list.

From 2009 until 30 November 2012 the Independent Safeguarding Authority made independent barring decisions on people referred to them. However, there were concerns that the vetting and barring service went too far. It would have required 9.3 million people to register with, and be monitored by, the scheme and shifted the responsibility for ensuring safe recruitment too much away from the employer and towards the state.

In June 2010 Ministers announced that the remaining implementation of the vetting and barring scheme was to be halted, pending a thorough review which was published in February 2011. The vetting and barring scheme remodelling review recommended merging the Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority into a new non-departmental public body that could administer a proportionate central vetting service.

The new scheme would retain the best features of the vetting and barring service, but would not require registration or monitoring, and would only cover those who have regular or close contact with vulnerable groups, defined as ‘regulated activity’ in legislation.

The powers needed to put this in place are contained in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Despite the creation of the DBS, criminal records disclosures in Northern Ireland are still managed by AccessNI, and applications for disclosure in Northern Ireland should be requested from AccessNI. However, the DBS will make barring decisions in relation to Northern Ireland.

Disclosure Scotland manages a separate scheme for Scotland.

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.