Why introduce DBS checks to my organisation?

November 21st, 2013 by Matt Tuckey

This is a question that we often get asked as a Commercial Umbrella Body for the Disclosure and Barring Service, Disclosure Scotland and AccessNI. For anyone with a negative view on the subject it is often followed up by a statement along the lines of ‘it only stops people that have already been caught’. For many organisations there is a legal requirement for them to run a check as part of their employment screening process so they must run one to remain compliant with legislation or other external guidance. For most of these organisations this requirement is part of their safeguarding policies as they often deal  directly with children and/or vulnerable adults where there is increased potential for harm. However DBS checks were never designed to be the only solution to the safeguarding issue and we recommend that all organisations put in place safeguards to ensure that staff members are correctly advised on spotting potential harm or avoiding placing themselves in a position where they could be accused of such harm. This can be achieved through staff training and robust HR processes. Employers should also actively seek to maintain contact with their employees so that they become informed of any changes in their personal circumstances or the potential inclusion of relevant criminal information. This is especially important where the normal day-to-day working relationship may be more distant e.g. Home Carers or Travelling Engineers.

Many employers see Disclosures as a licence for someone to carry out the work that they do, with endorsement from the Disclosure and Barring Service or other issuing body. This is simply not the case as the function of the DBS (and others) is to return the results to the employer as requested, and allow them to make an informed employment decision based upon those results. Where an individual is Barred from working with children and/or vulnerable adults the DBS will inform the employer and pass the case on to the Police. This is because it is an offence from someone who is barred from working with children and/or adults to attempt to work with these groups.

Employers should realise that Disclosure checks can be a very useful tool when deciding to recruit an individual, as it enables them to better identify suitable candidates and make an informed employment decision. This knowledge comes with an associated risk as the employer can potentially view some very sensitive information which they should treat with absolute secrecy, and only allow it to be known by someone who needs to know it. This may sound simple enough however ensuring that any irrelevant or old conviction information is ignored can be quite a challenge to some organisations. To ensure that a potential employee is treated fairly any information should be assessed by a suitably trained member of a HR team or senior management.

If an organisation is not eligible for a DBS check, any organisation can carry out some kind of criminal record check on employees. A Basic level criminal record check can be used as part of the recruitment and vetting process and reveals unspent criminal convictions on employees so organisations can establish if they are suitable for the position. More information on Basic checks can be found here.

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