Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks

31 March 2014

In August 2013 we told you we would not be asking to see registrants' Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal record disclosures any more. We explained this was because of changes in the law: NRCPD is not an employer so we are not legally allowed to see them.

We therefore changed the registration process. We also introduced a Fit and Proper Person's Declaration.

The declaration asks you to confirm that an enhanced criminal record disclosure has been obtained in the past three years. It is legally binding on registrants so it provides a level of public protection that did not exist previously.

What is a criminal record disclosure and who can ask for it?

Criminal record disclosures tell an employer if someone has been convicted of an offence in the past. Their purpose is to help employers protect vulnerable people. Employers can ask for a disclosure only if the employee or volunteer will be doing certain work. This is to make sure someone who has a criminal record isn't discriminated against because of it.

But apart from certain jobs - such as teachers - an employer doesn't have to ask for a disclosure. They can decide whether they think it is necessary.

However, this only applies between an organisation, such as a company or charity, and a person. Members of the public can never ask someone for a disclosure and self-employed people cannot apply for a check.

Checks for communication professionals

A communication professional working with deaf or deafblind people can be asked to provide an enhanced disclosure without a check of the adults barred list if they are

  • helping the client to live independently; and
  • doing that work more than three days a month or at least once a week.

A communication professional can be asked to provide an enhanced disclosure with a check of the adults barred list if they are working in regulated activity, such as health and social care or counselling.

Further information

If you require further information or would like to tell us how you feel about this issue please email enquiries@nrcpd.org.uk.

Below is more information about legislation relating to DBS checks.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) exists to protect people from discrimination because of their criminal record. It means they do not need to disclose a conviction that is spent when applying for a job, buying insurance or in civil proceedings.

A conviction becomes spent after the rehabilitation period - which is determined by the sentence - has passed and there has been no further conviction. People with spent convictions are considered to be rehabilitated. It is, for example, unlawful to refuse someone employment on the basis of spent convictions.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975

However, the law recognises that fuller disclosure of a person's criminal record is relevant for certain activities. Therefore exceptions to the ROA are listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.

These exceptions are known as 'regulated activity'. Some roles, such as teaching, are always regulated activity. Others, such as volunteering in a school, are only regulated if they are unsupervised and frequent or intensive.

If someone wishes to take part in a regulated activity, an organisation is allowed to ask for a check of that person's criminal record. The information provided on a disclosure helps them to make an informed decision.

Unless an activity is regulated an organisation does not have a legal right to ask someone to reveal their spent convictions. Furthermore, regulated activity does not extend to private arrangements. Members of the public can never ask someone to reveal their spent convictions and self-employed people cannot apply for a check.

The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations

The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations set out the circumstances in which an employer can ask for an enhanced DBS check. An enhanced check can be done when an employer needs to decide if someone is suitable to

  • work with adults; or
  • take part in regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults

These are defined by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012).

Vetting and Barring Scheme

In 2009 the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) was introduced. It prevents people with certain convictions, spent or unspent, from working with children or vulnerable adults. If such a person tries to work or volunteer with these groups they will be breaking the law. An organisation that knowingly employs them will also be breaking the law.

Whilst an organisation may be allowed to ask someone to provide a disclosure, no organisation is under an obligation to do so. It can decide, on the basis of a risk assessment, whether it is appropriate.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

In 2012 the government merged the Independent Safeguarding Authority - which was to administer the VBS - and the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). It was an effort to scale back the VBS to 'common sense levels'. The new organisation providing access to criminal record information is called the Disclosure and Barring Service. The DBS has issued guidance on eligibility for criminal record checks.

Types of DBS checks

A standard check will tell an employer about spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings.

An enhanced check includes the information on a standard check plus additional information held by local police that's relevant to the work being applied for.

An enhanced with list check includes a check of the DBS lists of people who are barred from working with children and adults.

Check the register

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