DBS Checks For Volunteers: What You Need To Know

by Tanya October 31, 2023

Volunteer roles have become increasingly common.

While they can be organised in a relatively ad hoc, disorganised manner, there are some industries that require individual background screening procedures.

DBS checks can sometimes be a necessary component in that process, but how should they be integrated?

Here’s what you need to be aware of. 

What are DBS checks?

DBS checks are the most common form of criminal background check in the UK, carried out by a non-departmental government body called the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

A DBS check is the procedure for employers to check employees’ or volunteers’ criminal records, to help decide whether you are a suitable person to work for them.

DBS is common when working with children and vulnerable adults.

Whether a homeless charity or a refugee helpline, it’s important to be sure that the volunteer or employee in question has honest intentions, and DBS checks can play a part in this filtering process.

How are DBS checks carried out for volunteers?

Whether these checks are being carried out for paid roles or volunteers, they will be conducted in largely the same manner, for the same reasons, and will search the same databases.

Essentially, there is no difference between doing DBS checks for volunteers or employees.

DBS is not concerned as to whether the candidate will be paid or not when they are examining their criminal record.

Eligibility for DBS checks

Volunteers can be eligible for DBS checks if they are working in roles that involve regular contact with children or vulnerable adults. This includes volunteers in schools, healthcare settings, and social care organizations.

Types of DBS checks

There are three levels of DBS checks in the UK, and the appropriate level depends on the nature of the volunteer role:

* Standard DBS check: This is the most common type for volunteers. It includes details of an individual’s unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings.

* Enhanced DBS check: This check is for volunteers in positions of trust or those who have regular contact with children or vulnerable adults. It provides the same information as a standard check but can also include additional information provided by the local police force.

* Enhanced DBS check with barred list information: This check is for those in regulated roles and includes the same information as an enhanced check, along with a check of the DBS barred lists.

DBS application process

Always check with the organization you’re volunteering for to understand their specific requirements and policies regarding DBS checks for volunteers. It’s essential to ensure that you comply with all relevant regulations and procedures when working with vulnerable individuals in the UK.

The process:

1. The candidate can either apply themself, or the employer can do it with their consent.

2. DBS checks for volunteers are usually provided at a reduced cost or even free by many organizations. However, this may vary depending on the organization’s policies.

3. If the organisation requires fewer than 100 checks each year, it will have to conduct the checks through an umbrella organisation such as Personnel Checks. If they require more than 100 a year, then they can apply directly to the DBS.

4. The information disclosed in a DBS certificate is sensitive and confidential. It should only be shared with those who have a legitimate reason to see it and in accordance with data protection laws.

While DBS checks can be practically useful, they can also often be a strict regulatory requirement. In these cases, failure to conduct a DBS check on your volunteers can result in legal action, even if an incident doesn’t occur as a result.

It’s important to be clear on what kind of DBS check you’re legally required to carry out for all roles, to ensure that you can safeguard your organisation in the required manner.

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The first Millennial blogger in the UK. Twitter @_luckyattitude

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