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Essential Information

What are DBS checks?

DBS checks are the replacement for CRB checks (Criminal Record checks) and are managed by the government’s Disclosure and Barring Service. The checks look at whether a volunteer has a criminal record and if they are on the barred list for certain activities.

DBS checks

When does your organisation do a DBS check for volunteers? For everyone who comes through your door? For people volunteering with children? Not at all – and you’re hoping that’s right?
DBS checks can be confusing for organisations working with volunteers, so we’ve put together this simple guide to help you to decide when you need to do a check and when you don’t.

When should I do DBS checks?

You should have DBS checks as part of your normal recruitment process but only for roles that require it. These are usually roles where a volunteer is supporting children or vulnerable adults. To be eligible for a DBS check, a position must be:
• listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 – this entitles the position to a Standard level check only.
• prescribed in The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations – this entitles the position to an Enhanced level check. These are for posts that involve large amounts of contact with children or vulnerable adults, such as regularly caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge of people in these groups. This could include mentors, Scout or Guide leaders or home visitors for older people.
If you are in any doubt you can email customerservices@dbs.gsi.gov.uk or call 03000 200 190.

Don’t do blanket checks!

It can be tempting to think that it would be easier to just do DBS checks for all volunteers so everyone is covered. However, this can put off volunteers who feel they may be judged for a criminal record that is not linked to their ability to take up a specific role. Checks are now being refused by the system if they feel that the role does not merit it. Blanket checking can attract a fine of up to £5,000 for regulatory bodies.

How will I know my role needs a DBS check?

To request DBS checks you should be sure that the volunteer role is eligible for checking and that it is necessary. For example, roles with children generally do need a check but might not if they are always supervised.
Use our flowchart to work out if your role needs a DBS check.

Regulated Activity Flow chart for DBS

You should also let the volunteer know that a DBS check will be taking place and why you are doing it.

What are the costs?

DBS checks are free for volunteers but many organisations use an umbrella agency to run their checks, which costs around £7 – £12 per check as an administration fee.

Use as a part of your safeguarding

Simply choosing to use disclosure checks will act as a deterrent to anyone seeking to volunteer in order to abuse the vulnerable. However, this must be part of a wider safeguarding approach, such as interviews, references, trial periods and ongoing supervision and training.

Want to find out more?

Volunteer Centre Greenwich offers training in recruiting and screening volunteers, including using DBS checks appropriately. Contact Stephanie@volunteersgreenwich.co.uk to find out more.