DBS FAQs for group settings in England
For information on DBS checks in Wales, see here.
What is the Disclosure and Barring Service?
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers to 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).
Why do I need a DBS check?
An enhanced DBS check with barred lists is a requirement for anyone working with children, to ensure that you are suitable to work with children and that the children are safe.
What if I already have a DBS certificate?
You may be able to use an existing DBS certificate if you had an enhanced DBS check for a similar childcare role. Ofsted may accept the certificate if either of the following apply:
- you've signed up to the DBS Update Service
- the certificate is dated in the last three months and you haven't had any gaps in your employment since that date.
However, a new DBS check is required if you are applying to register a new childcare provision; if your new role gives greater access to children or has more responsibility; or if you have had a break in employment of more than three months.
How do I apply for a DBS certificate?
Follow Ofsted's application process to apply for your DBS check.
Ofsted also strongly recommends that you join the DBS Update Service as part of your registration. Being part of the Update Service helps Ofsted to monitor your ongoing suitability to work with and/or be in regular contact with children. You can keep your DBS certificate up to date online, and it allows employers to check your DBS status.
Do I need to sign up to the DBS Update Service?
It's not compulsory to join the DBS Update Service; however, Ofsted strongly advises that you do. Ofsted will only accept a DBS certificate within three months of its issue date. Joining the Update Service costs £13 a year and keeps your certifcate up to date. It can be done at the point of application or you can sign up within 30 days of the DBS certificate date.
If you join the Update Service, you should be able to use your DBS for new jobs or roles with children without having to apply for a new certificate each time. It also means that if Ofsted need to repeat your DBS check in the future, for example if your circumstances change, they can do this without having to pay a fee for a new check.
How do I register for the DBS Update Service?
You can register online for the Update Service as soon as you receive your application form reference number. Ask for the number when you make your DBS check application. Alternatively, you can register when you receive your DBS certificate, using the certificate number. If you do this, remember that you must register within 30 days of the certificate being issued. Registration lasts for one year and costs £13 annually (payable by debit or credit card).
Once you've successfully registered, you can view your details online, using the ID number you'll be given with your registration.
When you register for the update, you'll get an online account that lets you:
- take your certificate from one job to the next
- give employers permission to check your certificate online, and see who has checked it
- add or remove a certificate.
Read the detailed guidance for applicants.
Who else needs a DBS check in my setting?
An enhanced DBS check is necessary for anyone working in childcare. A new employee must have an enhanced DBS certificate before they begin work at your setting.
How long does it take to carry out a DBS check?
It takes approximately eight weeks. If new employees join the DBS Update Service, you can track the status of their DBS check online (with their consent) here.
What if a new employee already has a DBS certificate?
Although there is no official expiry date for a DBS or CRB check, it is advisable to request a new DBS check for each new appointment. This is because a DBS certificate is only accurate at the time of issue. In addition, it is often recommended that DBS certificates for existing staff are renewed every one to three years.
If an individual has signed up to the DBS Update Service, their certificate will be kept up to date online as the DBS will regularly search for new information such as convictions, cautions or warnings. This means that you can accept the individual's existing certificate. However, it is still up to you as an employer - you can request a new DBS check if you wish.
If you accept an existing certificate from someone who has joined the DBS Update Service, the individual must show you their original hard-copy DBS certificate and provide their DBS unique subscription ID number, which allows you to check for any updates to their certificate.
If a prospective employee hasn't signed up to the DBS Update Service, it is up to you as an employer whether to accept a previously-issued DBS certificate (this is called portability). According to Ofsted's factsheet: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for childcare providers who register with Ofsted, you must be able to prove to Ofsted that you have complied with DBS guidance on portability. For example:
- Apply for a new enhanced DBS check, even if you let the person start work using an existing check.
- Cross-reference different forms of identification to check the individual's identity, including date of birth and address.
- Check the original certificate; not a photocopy.
- Contact the person who originally requested the DBS check, to see whether other information was released through a separate letter. (If other information was released, you must not let the person start work until they have a new DBS check.)
- Check any unexplained gaps in employment. (You must not use an existing DBS check if there is a break of more than three months in service.)
- Check that the original application position and workforce are correct for the role you're recruiting for.
- Check the date that the certificate was issued - information is accurate only at the time of issue. The individual's criminal record or other relevant information may have changed since. It is best to expect that the certificate must have been issued within three months if it is not on the Update Service.
- Make yourself aware of the security features on a DBS certificate which can be used to verify its authenticity.
- Make sure that the individual does not have unsupervised access to children until the new DBS check can confirm their suitability.
For further information on DBS checks for childcare providers, including complying with portability guidance, see: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for childcare providers who register with Ofsted.
You can also read the DBS guidance for employers here.
What security features are there on DBS certificates?
- An original DBS certificate has printing on both sides; the paper size is 209mm width x 404mm length which is larger than A4.
- The personal information print colour on the certificate is purple.
- A 'crown seal' watermark repeated down the right-hand side of the certificate is visable both on the surface and when holding the certificate up to the light.
- A background design with the word 'Disclosure' appears in a wave-like pattern across both sides of the document - on the front of the certificate this pattern is green and on the rear of the document this is purple.
If you are unsure whether a DBS certificate is genuine, or you think that it may have been altered, you should contact the DBS immediately at FDIT@dbs.gov.uk.
The above information on DBS certificate security features is here.