Disclosure and Barring Service checks (previously CRB checks)

What is the DBS?

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 established the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in 2012 and merged the functions of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

The DBS is in charge of:

  • processing requests for criminal record checks (ie, a list of offences for which an individual has been convicted in the past. Police cautions will also show on a person’s criminal record);
  • assessing whether someone should to be placed on or taken off a barred list (someone on a barred list is prohibited from working in specified sectors);
  • adding or removing people from the DBS children’s barred list and adults’ barred list for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who can apply for a DBS check?

Only employers and licensing bodies are allowed to request a DBS check. Job applicants can’t do a criminal records check on themselves (although they can request a basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland – you don’t have to be from Scotland to do this). The minimum age at which someone can be asked to apply for a criminal record check is 16.

How is a DBS obtained?

  • an employer can obtain an application form from DBS or an umbrella body (a registered body that gives access to DBS checks);
  • the person who is being checked fills in the form and returns it to the employer, along with proof of identity;
  • the employer sends the completed application form to DBS or their umbrella body;
  • a DBS certificate is sent to the applicant. The employer must ask the applicant to examine the certificate;
  • if the applicant has subscribed to the DBS update service, the employer can check their certificate online.

When is DBS check required?

Employers and licensing bodies may need to check someone’s criminal record if they apply:

  • for certain jobs or voluntary work, eg, working with children or in healthcare;
  • to foster or adopt a child.

What information does a DBS check contain?

There are three types of DBS check which vary in the levels of detail:

  • Standard: this checks for current and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings held on the Police National Computer;
  • Enhanced: this includes the same as the standard check plus any extra information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role being applied for;
  • Enhanced with list checks: this is similar to the enhanced check, but includes a check of the DBS barred lists.

The information contained in all three types of DBS check may be sensitive and personal. Therefore a DBS 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.

For how long is a DBS check valid?

The DBS check contains information that is only valid on the day of issue. A conviction or other matter could be recorded against the applicant anytime after the certificate has been issued and therefore a DBS check has no specified period of validity. It is up to an employer to decide if and when a new check is needed. Applicants and employers can use the DBS update service to keep a certificate up to date or carry out checks on a potential employee’s certificate.

How much does a DBS check cost?

Checks for voluntary workers are free if they spend time helping people and are not being paid (apart from for travel and other approved out of pocket expenses) and are not only looking after a close relative. Otherwise the fees which apply are:

  • standard check: £26.00
  • enhanced check: £44.00
  • enhanced with list check: £44.00

How long will a DBS check take to obtain?

It generally takes around eight weeks to get a DBS check.

Regulated activities

A regulated activity is work that someone on the barred list must not do. In deciding whether someone should be placed on the barred list, the DBS considers offences (convictions or cautions), evidence of inappropriate behaviour and evidence of behaviour likely to harm a child or vulnerable adult.

In relation to children, a regulated activity includes:

  • unsupervised activities such as teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children, or providing advice/guidance on well-being, or driving a vehicle only for children;
  • working in ‘specified places’, with opportunity for contact with children (eg, schools, children’s homes, childcare premises).

Under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, a regulated activity in relation to vulnerable adults includes:

  • the provision to an adult of health care by, or under the direction or supervision of, a health care professional;
  • the provision to an adult of relevant personal care;
  • the provision by a social care worker of relevant social work to an adult who is a client or potential client;
  • the provision of assistance in relation to general household matters to an adult who is in need of it by reason of age, illness or disability;
  • any relevant assistance in the conduct of an adult’s own affairs;
  • the conveying by persons of a prescribed description in such circumstances as may be prescribed of adults who need to be conveyed by reason of age, illness or disability.


Job applicants and employers can both appeal against a barring decision following a check. The decision could be changed if the appeal is successful.

You can also appeal if you think there’s been an error in either:

  • the records provided (eg, wrong or irrelevant information on convictions);
  • personal information (eg, name or employer’s details).

You need to report the mistake within three months of issue of the DBS check certificate.