DBS checks for volunteers

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is the service that processes all criminal record checks in England and Wales. CRB checks are now called DBS checks. There are significant differences between the old CRB checks and the new DBS checks but, as a broad rule of thumb, most roles where CRB checks were previously required will still be eligible for a DBS check.

Key changes:

The definition of regulated activity has changed. Controlled activity has been abolished.

  • There are only six categories of regulated activity, and controlled activity has been abolished.
  • Few voluntary roles will fall under regulated activity.
  • Regulated activity requires an enhanced check plus the barred list check.
  • It is currently illegal to knowingly allow a person on the barred list to work or volunteer in regulated activity.
  • You can do enhanced DBS checks for non-regulated activity as long as it is an eligible role.
  • It is unlawful to do a DBS check if the role is not eligible.

NCVO has written a user-friendly guide to help explain the different levels of check and eligibility, and has also produced flowcharts that can help you work out if your roles are included in regulated activity. You can read these here:

Click here to download 'DBS checks NCVO information sheet.pdf' [387kb] 

Click here to download 'DBS Flowchart showing regulated activity relating to adults and children DBS.pdf' [90kb]

Eligibility for DBS checks

The eligibility for most roles has remained the same as it was for CRB checks. An organisation can only apply for a DBS check on a volunteer or employee if the role or job they will do is eligible for one. The organisation must tell the applicant why they are being checked and where they can get independent advice. There are three levels of checks:

  • Standard checks – To be eligible for a standard level DBS check, the position must be included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.
  • Enhanced checks – To be eligible for an enhanced level DBS check, the position must be included in both the ROA (Exceptions) Order and in the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations.
  • Enhanced checks with children’s and/or adult’s barred list check(s) – To be eligible to request a check of the children’s or adult’s barred lists, the position must be eligible for an enhanced level DBS check as above and be specifically listed in the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations as able to check the barred list(s).

Click here to download 'DBS Guide to eligibility for criminal record checks.pdf' [213kb]

Identity checking has changed

There are new regulations for identity checking - see DBS guidelines.

  • The minimum age to get a DBS check is 16.
  • If your organisation does more than 100 DBS checks a year, you can register with DBS and do them directly. This is a charged-for service.
  • If you do fewer than 100 checks a year, you can use an umbrella body. See the DBS directory of providers.
  • There is information and guidance on the DBS process on the DBS website.
  • If you are uncertain about whether or not a volunteer role should have a DBS check you can ring the DBS helpline on 0870 9090811, or you can email your role description, with the subject ‘Eligibility Question’, to customerservices@dbs.gsi.gov.uk.

DBS checks are now portable

The updating service will mean that once you have a DBS check you will be able to show your DBS certificate to a new employer, or a new organisation where you are volunteering, and give them permission to check whether there have been any updates since the check was done. This updating service will be free for volunteers (apart from the usual admin fee). 

You must register for this update service! You must complete an online registration form. You can do it as soon as you have the application reference number or within 19 days of the certificate being issued. See the DBS update service.

DBS checks can be renewed online annually

DBS checks can be renewed annually but you have a narrow window to do this and it is only for people who registered online for the update service. Individuals we get an email 30 days before the DBS check expires. They must go online and register within the 30 days. If they don’t, they will have to complete a new full DBS application form. See more details on the DBS update service

A couple of flow charts which may help

Click here to download 'Regulated Activity - Adults.pdf' [36kb]

Click here to download 'Regulated Activity - Children and Young People.pdf' [48kb]