Criminal record checks

COVID-19 indemnity and litigation

Employers should seek to obtain a self-declaration form from all applicants as per current guidelines.

Employers should check whether appointees have subscribed to the DBS update service and seek the individual’s permission to access information about their criminal record check status online. Where individuals are subscribed and a check can be conducted online, there is no further requirement for a DBS check, unless it indicates that information is known about the individual, or the role they are being appointed to do requires a different level of check. 

Employers can accept pre-disclosed DBS checks that have been obtained by another organisation for another role. Where it’s the organisation’s policy to undertake three-yearly periodic checks, employers may wish to align any decision to accept pre-disclosed information with local arrangements. Any decision to accept pre-disclosed information must be based on an appropriate risk assessment as outlined in guidance for employers on the DBS website. 

Fast-track DBS checks

New legislative measures have been brought in by the Home Office, following the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020.  

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Commencement No. 16) Order 2020 and the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Transitory Provision) Order 2020, will allow employers to obtain a fast-track check against the children’s and/or adults barred lists, which will be turned around within 24 hours of DBS receiving it.

The relevant legislation can be found on the UKSI website:

The new fast-track check should be used where a new DBS check is needed to enable individuals to start work or volunteering in a regulated activity where a risk assessment has been undertaken and appropriate safeguards have been put in place to monitor and/or supervise the individual, until the full disclosure has been received. It may also be used where deploying existing staff who have not had a barred list check, but who now require one because they are being re-deployed into a regulated activity with adults and/or children.

Standard and enhanced without barred list checks for individuals being taken on to support in the COVID-19 response, will need to be processed in the normal way. This includes both employed workers and volunteers. However, under the new arrangements, employers may consider allowing individuals to start work or volunteer prior to the full disclosure certificate being received. This should reflect their safeguarding policies and practices and where they have assessed any risks that might be associated with the role to ensure appropriate monitoring and/or supervision arrangements are in place to manage the individual.

The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 has been made to exempt the payment of fees for DBS checks for specified groups taken on to support in the COVID-10 response. Unpaid volunteers appointed during this period will continue to be eligible for a free DBS check. 

Where employers use an umbrella body registered with the DBS to carry out checks on their behalf, there may still be an admin fee to pay for these services that will not be covered by these arrangements.

Further guidance on the DBS arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on the Gov.uk website, including:

  • information about fast track checks against the adults and children’s barred lists
  • revised identity check guidelines (24 March 2020) which relaxes the need to see original documentation in advance of submitting a DBS application in urgent cases, and where normal guidelines cannot be reasonably implemented
  • a factsheet for community volunteer support
  • frequently asked questions and other useful guidance which will help ensure DBS applications are completed correctly.

Current staff taking on additional or different duties

Where pre-existing members of staff are asked to take on additional or different duties, employers will need to assess whether or not a new DBS check may be needed based on the roles and responsibilities, and level of contact with patients. NHS Employers’ DBS eligibility tool and scenario-based examples helps employers determine whether a check is required and at what level. 

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