What is a DBS check: Who needs it? How long does it take?

Are you wanting to work with children or vulnerable people?

If the answer is yes?

Then you’ll definitely need a DBS check, which confirms that there are no criminal convictions on your record that could otherwise mean you are a danger or a risk.

Having a DBS check is one of the core fundamentals of safeguarding vulnerable people: whether it be in schools, in hospitals or care homes for the elderly.

But professions based in other fields require a DBS check too – some which will surprise you!

Let’s explore exactly who needs a DBS check and how to obtain one, with some helpful tips for your first time obtaining the check.

What is a DBS Check?

When applying for a new role, DBS checks are often forgotten about. But they are crucial for dozens of professions in the UK – and it is vital that you don’t underestimate how important they are.

Until 2012, DBS checks were known as CRB (criminal records bureau) checks.

They are sometimes still thought to be the same thing, but since the change the checks have been a lot more thorough and complete, to ensure the security of vulnerable people who come into contact with those hired.

They are essentially background checks done by national and local police forces.

The checks ensure that any previous charges are investigated.

People with charges are not necessarily prohibited from jobs needing a DBS check, but they will come under more scrutiny. Anyone with inappropriate or severe charges – for example, a sex offender – will not be allowed to take on a job requiring a DBS check.

History of CRB and DBS

CRB checks were introduced by the home office in 2002, with the intention to protect children and vulnerable adults from getting into close contact with anyone who could harm them. They were processed manually until 2010, when the automated online service began.

The switch to DBS happened when the independent safeguarding authority merged with the original criminal records bureau, triggered by the response to the brutal murders of ten-year-old schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

The young girls were tragically killed by their school caretaker, Ian Huntley. The caretaker had previous criminal convictions – he had been charged with raping a teenager and indecently assaulting an 11-year-old - but somehow managed to obtain a position of care at the school. He was vetted under the name Ian Nixon and his crimes were not noticed.

His fiancée, Maxine Carr, also worked at the school and was involved in the murder of the two children. The fact that they both sought out jobs at the school was used as evidence that the attack was pre-meditated, and Huntley’s past suggested that there was a sexual motive in the murder. This heart-breaking scandal caused a nationwide investigation about who was being allowed to work in schools. Thus, security was tightened, and more complete DBS checks began.

Nowadays, DBS checks are an essential part of screening for many jobs and while there are no official statistics, they are thought to have prevented many people who are unsuitable for sensitive roles filling these positions.

Types of DBS check

There are several different DBS checks; the check that you will need depends on your job and its individual requirements.

The levels are:

Basic Disclosure

This check can be requested by an individual and anyone can obtain one.

Employers often request this if they want some background information on a person but said person is not eligible for a full check.

The check goes over any recent or serious unspent convictions. Because it does not include spent convictions, there is no eligibility criteria to obtain this check. It can be requested for personal licence applications and is also needed to obtain certain visas.

If you are volunteering in a school infrequently (less than once a week, less than four days in a 30-day period and not overnight) and are not providing healthcare or assistance to sick or disabled children, then you will probably not be required to complete an enhanced DBS check.

In this instance, the school may request that you complete a basic disclosure check.

Standard DBS

standard DBS check details spent and unspent convictions, cautions, warnings or reprimands that are on the applicant’s record.

To apply for one, the applicant’s job title must be included in the Rehabilitation of the Offenders Act 1974.

People who would need this level of checking include:

  • Accountant or lawyers
  • Veterinary surgeons
  • Court or prison workers

Enhanced DBS Checks

Enhanced DBS checks are generally for anyone who will be working with vulnerable adults or children, as well as in some other professions; all must be found in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and the Police Act 1997.

Enhanced DBS checks can include a barred list check which cross-checks the list of people barred from working with children or vulnerable adults in the UK.

To see what type of DBS check you or your employee needs, use this tool from Gov UK.

How Long Does a DBS Check Take?

There is no set time frame for a DBS check, as it largely depends on whether there are any convictions, how much the person has moved and how easy their name is to investigate.

Generally, applications take between four and eight weeks.

Currently, DBS checks can be acquired by paper applications and online.

While the popularity of paper applications is decreasing, as of March 2018 16.7% of DBS checks were still initiated using this method.

Understandably, paper forms take longer. This is frequently due to postal delays and the fact that any queries made must be returned by post.

Other reasons that a DBS check may be delayed include:

  • Issues with the countersignature – to ensure that this is correct, it is a great idea to use a DBS registered umbrella body to countersign the application.
  • Errors being made on the application – be sure that previous names, address history, middle names and all other details are thorough and correct on the form.
  • Someone having moved around a lot and the check needing to go through many Local Police Forces (LPFs).

All DBS checks go through these five stages:

  • Application form received by the DBS authority
  • Search of the Police National Computer
  • Search of the DBS children, DBS adults and List 99 in applicable applications
  • Application passed over to the Local Police Force and investigated
  • Certificate printed

There is obviously a lot of room for hold-ups at different stages of the application, depending on how deep the investigation needs to go.

As previously mentioned, applications can take longest at stage four when the local police forces are carrying out their investigations. This is because the application can be passed to any of the LPFs of the areas that the person has lived in the last five years; if the person has moved around a lot the application could be passed to LPFs from all over the country. Of course, if any of the LPFs raise a query there can be significant delays.

There have been many horror stories about applications being delayed, especially in overpopulated London. Cases of people losing their jobs due to waiting for several months for a DBS check are not uncommon – hopeful business owner Monica Demeterova speaks about how she is unable to register her business due to her husband needing a check and it taking over five months to be completed.

DBS checks are supposed to be cleared up to eight weeks and take no longer than 60 days.

But 51.9% of cases are not dealt with until 61 days and the average is a shocking 107 days.

To avoid these delays, it is recommended to use a trusted DBS service rather than completing the application alone.

With expert knowledge, you’ll be able to avoid some of the main obstacles that delay DBS checks and reduce your wait time significantly.

While there is no guarantee of getting a fast result, you’ll be much more likely to have it this way.

Who needs a DBS check?

  • While some professions – like teachers, doctors and nurses – are obvious candidates for needing a DBS check, there are some random professions requiring one that will surprise you.These include:
    • A scrap metal dealer
    • A chartered accountant – due to their high levels of responsibility and access to sensitive information
    • Pest control – as they need to enter schools or nursing homes from time to time
    • Traffic warden – this is because they are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, a result of which means that they must undertake a standard DBS check.
    • Locksmith – those who are members of the Master Locksmiths Association must apply for a DBS check with the association. This is due to the fact that locksmiths often have access to homes, schools or hospitals.
    • Bar supervisor – supervisors of licensed premises should have a personal licence to sell alcohol which includes a basic disclosure.

    So, as you can see, it’s not just those working with the sick or children who may require a DBS check.

How much is a DBS check?

  • The prices of DBS checks do change, but from the 31st May 2015 Gov UK displayed the prices as:
    • £26 for a standard check
    • £44 for an enhanced check
    • £44 for an enhanced with barred list check

    Of course, going with a trusted DBS service, like us at OnlineDBSChecks, takes a lot of the stress out of DBS applications and gives them a faster turnaround time.

    While there is a service fee included with these applications, the rates are very reasonable.

Who should pay for a DBS check?

One of the most debated topics around DBS checks is who exactly should shoulder the costs.Should it be the employer - who may have a few of these fees to pay and who doesn’t know for certain if the employee is suitable until they receive the check back - or the employee - for whom it is a very inconvenient cost when applying for the job?

Generally, the employer tends to pay for DBS checks as an act of courtesy.

However, it must be noted that they are not obliged to do so and many employers do ask the person who they are hiring to pay for it themselves.

If someone regularly switches jobs and finds themselves forking out for many DBS checks, there is a DBS update service.

At an annual cost of £13, this keeps the applications current and means that they can be used multiple times.

If you are applying for a voluntary role, neither you or the body that is taking you on needs to pay for the DBS check. They are offered complimentarily by the government for volunteers.


DBS checks are a vital part of becoming employed in certain industries – but are one that many overlook. If you are thinking of becoming a teacher, doctor, nurse or any other profession mentioned in this post, you should be thinking about DBS checks whenever you apply for a job.If you work in another industry or role, you may still need a DBS check and it is a great idea to have a good awareness of your DBS status. If nothing else, it is a great idea to ask future employers about the requirements for DBS, including who pays the fees and what level you may need, when discussing the job opportunity.

Remember, while DBS checks can be confusing to apply for, there are plenty of services that take the stress out of the DBS application.

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