The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) provides a streamlined, time-saving and cost-efficient way for companies to vet potential applicants, volunteers and associated contractors.
A DBS check is a simple solution to ensure that companies are making the smartest hiring decisions possible. It’s certainly easier than the old process of requesting Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks as well as separate checks from the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), with the new system instead combining them into one single check. The three types of DBS certificates issued contain varying levels of disclosure, but all of them follow a very similar, structured process whenever requested by an organisation.
This guide explains all you need to know about the DBS check stages and what occurs during each period of the DBS application process.
The 5 DBS Check Stages
Once you have submitted a DBS check application, often at the prospective employer’s request (who will usually front the cost), it will go to the DBS umbrella body for countersigning before being passed onto the Service itself.
If you are applying for an Enhanced DBS check, it will go through the five critical stages outlined below, unless your hiring company has not requested you complete a Children’s or Adults’ Barred List check. In that case, it will skip Stage 3.
DBS Check Process
The step-by-step process for Basic, Standard and Enhanced DBS applications is loosely outlined below.
Stage 1 – DBS Application Form
Your DBS online application is passed onto the Disclosure and Barring Service by the umbrella body before scanning it onto their system. If there are any errors or anomalies, the DBS returns the application to the umbrella organisation within 24 hours.
Stage 2 – The Police National Computer (PNC) Search
Assuming all is good with Stage 1, and no further checking is needed on the DBS application form, the details are then checked against the PNC database for any possible matches. If there is any criminal activity requiring verification from the national computer, they’ll be highlighted if an offence is a cause for concern and wasn’t disclosed during the Basic, Standard or Enhanced DBS form.
Stage 3 – Children’s and Adults’ Barred List Checks
This only applies to anyone who has to apply for an Enhanced DBS check online, where the organisation requires all applicants to undergo a Barred List check, usually due to the role involving having to work with children or vulnerable adults.
Relevant information from the DBS application is verified against the appropriate barred list to check for any matches. If someone is revealed to be on one or both of these lists, the organisation is legally prohibited from hiring them.
Stage 4 – Enhanced DBS Goes to Your Local Police Force
Any Enhanced DBS checks submitted online are sent to an applicant’s local police force(s) for an additional check of their criminal record before being submitted to the DBS.
Police forces verify a DBS check to ensure potential matches aren’t missed and don’t contradict what is on police records. Sometimes there can be delays during Stage 4 of the check process, which is why it’s difficult to give exact timescales for how long a DBS check takes. Delays are out of the umbrella body’s hands, as police forces sometimes have a backlog of applications to verify, or there may be conflicting information that requires investigating further.
For more information, read our blog about why DBS checks get stuck at Stage 4 sometimes.
Stage 5 – DBS Certificate Printed
The final stage of the DBS process involves disclosing all the relevant information onto a physical DBS check certificate. The Standard or Enhanced DBS certificates are posted to the applicant and the results are sent to their email address. If your job role requires regularly updated DBS check information, we highly recommend that you sign up to the DBS Update Service within 14 days of receiving your certificate.
DBS Check Tracking
You can track your DBS check online by signing up to the DBS Tracking Service. DBS checks can be viewed by the applicant, employer and umbrella body by filling in the information on this page. You’ll only need to supply the application reference number, the applicant’s surname and date of birth.
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