COVID-19: Free-of-charge DBS applications and fast-track Barred List check service

Guidance around free-of-charge applications and our new fast-track Barred List check service, in response to COVID-19.

This publication was withdrawn on

This guidance has been withdrawn in line with government legislation. The DBS COVID Fast and Free service ended on 11 May 2023.

Applies to England and Wales


COVID-19: DBS Checks Flowchart

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In response to coronavirus (COVID-19), the Home Office and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) have put temporary arrangements in place, to provide standard and enhanced DBS checks and fast-track emergency checks of the adults’ and children’s Barred Lists, free-of-charge.

This applies to healthcare and social care workers in England and Wales, being recruited in connection with the provision of care and treatment of coronavirus, or those being recruited to backfill roles because of the impact of the pandemic.

A full list of eligible roles within NHS health services, social care services or social services functions in connection with the provision of care and treatment of coronavirus can be found in the ‘Eligible Roles’ attachment above.

Please note, the roles eligible for free-of-charge DBS checks, and fast-track emergency checks, are different to those defined as ‘key workers’ for childcare etc.

How do the free-of-charge DBS checks work?

Standard, enhanced, and enhanced with barred list(s) DBS checks are free-of-charge if they are covered by the ‘Eligible Roles’ attachment above. Free-of-charge DBS checks will be completed within our business-as-usual timescales. Our fast-track service relates only to barred list checks when an enhanced with barred list(s) check is submitted. See below for more information.

Information on how to complete the application form for a free-of-charge DBS check can be found below.

How do the fast-track emergency checks work?

Fast-track emergency checks relate to enhanced with barred list(s) checks only.

When an eligible free-of-charge enhanced with barred list(s) check is submitted, DBS will check the application against the Adults’ and/or Children’s Barred List(s) within 24 hours. The result of this check will be returned to the Registered Body that submitted the check by the end of the next working day. The application will then progress as usual, and a full DBS certificate will be printed and sent within business-as-usual timescales.

If there is no match against the Barred List(s), the recruiting organisation can choose to appoint the new recruit into regulated activity with adults and/or children until the full DBS certificate is received, ensuring that appropriate measures are put in place to manage the individual until then.

Information on how to complete the application form for a free-of-charge DBS check including a fast-track emergency check of the Barred List(s) can be found below.

Misuse of this emergency fast-track service will delay the urgent deployment of health and social care personnel, and undermine the national effort to fight coronavirus.

Before applying for new DBS checks, here are some key facts and prompts to inform your emergency-planning risk assessment:

  • about 94% of all standard and enhanced DBS checks have no information included on them
  • only 0.02% of enhanced with barred list(s) DBS checks state the person is on a Barred List
  • if the person you’re looking to employ as part of these emergency measures, has had a DBS check in the last 3 years, as long as it is for the correct level (standard or enhanced) and is for the same workforce (children and/or adults), consider whether you can use the recent check to determine suitability for the role applied for
  • if the person you’re looking to employ as part of these emergency measures has an existing subscription to the Update Service, then assess suitability of the applicant using their original DBS certificate and a check of the Update Service

Please note, as a temporary measure, where you are recruiting into paid employment, you may consider accepting checks previously issued for volunteer roles. This measure should only be taken for roles that are being filled in response to COVID-19.

When to apply for COVID-19 free-of-charge checks, and fast-track Barred Lists checks

These services must only be used where organisations are recruiting staff that fall within the definition provided in the ‘Eligible Roles’ attachment. All other appointments eligible for DBS checks, must be processed in the usual way. This is to ensure emergency checks can be processed without delay.

Employers are reminded that they may accept previously-issued DBS checks. Any decision to use a previously-issued DBS check should be made at a local level, as part of a wider risk assessment. Employers should also establish whether potential staff are subscribed to the DBS Update Service, which may allow recruitment to take place more quickly.

How to apply for free-of-charge DBS checks and fast-track Barred List checks

To benefit from free-of-charge DBS checks and/or the fast-track service, Registered Bodies and Umbrella Bodies should submit applications through the usual channels, following the steps below.

The application form or online application for standard, enhanced, and enhanced with barred list(s) checks should be completed as follows:

Question How to complete
“Position Applied For” Include the text ‘COVID19’ in addition to the usual ‘job title’ and ‘workforce’ information. These 3 pieces of information can appear in any order e.g. CHILD AND ADULT WORKFORCE COVID19 DOCTOR
For enhanced applications: “Are you entitled to know whether the applicant is barred from working with children?” Place an X in the ‘Yes’ box if appropriate
For enhanced applications: “Are you entitled to know whether the applicant is barred from working with adults?” Place an X in the ‘Yes’ box if appropriate
“Is this application for a free-of-charge volunteer?” Place an X in the ‘Yes’ box

For the check to be processed free-of-charge, please ensure it’s submitted as a volunteer application. We are unable to refund fees if applications are not completed as above.

Please note, workforce details should be included in the “Position Applied For” field, as usual.

What will DBS do, and how are fast-track results returned?

Where requested, DBS will check applications against the Adults and/or Children’s Barred List(s) and will email the results to the Registered Body or Umbrella Body, via the address held for the Countersignatory, or to an alternative address as agreed specifically for this service.

DBS aims to provide results to Registered Bodies by the end of the next working day.

The results provided to Registered Bodies or Umbrella Bodies will state that no match has been found, or that they should await the full DBS certificate before making a recruitment decision.

Please note that standard DBS checks, and enhanced DBS checks without a barred list(s) check, will not receive a fast-track email result. The fast-track service only applies to enhanced with barred list(s) DBS checks.

Using the Adult First service

Where applications are submitted using the guidance above, you should not submit a separate Adult First check.

Joining the Update Service

Applicants should not subscribe to the Update Service using a check submitted according to the process detailed above. These checks should also not be added to an existing Update Service subscription.

Any free-of-charge checks or fast-track emergency checks that are added to an Update Service subscription will be unlinked, and subscriptions cancelled where appropriate.

Published 27 March 2020
Last updated 22 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. Supplementary guidance added in relation to eligible roles, to provide further clarification around the free-of-charge enhanced DBS checks and emergency checks of the Barred Lists.

  2. Update to clarify that standard and enhanced without barred list(s) checks can also benefit from a free-of-charge service where they are covered by the list of eligible roles. We have also improved our processes and this means barred list checks should now be requested in line with the workforce.

  3. First published.