This chapter provides information for multi-agency practitioners in relation to the criminal records checks that staff and volunteers who provide regulated activity, undergo when they work with adults with care and support needs. It outlines the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service and the different types of checks that can be requested. It also discusses the barred lists and the duty to refer a member of staff or volunteer in specific circumstances.


Managing Allegations against People in Positions of Trust

June 2020: Some links in this chapter have been updated.

1. Introduction

Employers need to ensure, to the best of their ability, that the people who they employ – as paid staff, volunteers or contractors – are committed to providing good quality care and support and are not a risk to adults who receive care and support services from them, or their carers or other family members including children.

Undertaking robust criminal records checks is one of a number of safer recruitment measures which are designed to try to prevent unsuitable people being employed to work with vulnerable groups. As well as thorough recruitment processes, training, staff supervision and appraisal programmes are all important to ensuring good working practices.

2. Disclosure and Barring Service

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers make safer recruitment decisions. It is responsible for:

  • processing requests from organisations or criminal records checks on individuals;
  • deciding whether it is right that a person is placed on or removed from a barred list;
  • placing or removing people from the DBS children’s barred list and adults’ barred list for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As well as processing requests and making decisions, the DBS maintains the adults’ and children’s Barred Lists (see Section 3 below) which bars someone from working in a job that involves regulated activity.

3. Barred Lists and Duty to Refer

There are two barred lists maintained by the Disclosure and Barring Service in relation to those who are:

  • barred from working with children;
  • barred with working with adults.

A person who is barred from working with children or adults will be committing a criminal offence if they work, volunteer or try to work or volunteer with the group from which they have been barred.

An organisation which knows it is employing someone who is barred to work with that particular group will also be committing a criminal offence.

Legally an organisation must inform the Disclosure and Barring Service if a member of its staff or a volunteer is dismissed because they have harmed a child or adult, or would have been dismissed if they had not resigned or otherwise left.

4. Criminal Records Checks

Click here to access the DBS tool to Find out which DBS Check is Right for your Employee.

Through undertaking criminal records checks, the DBS helps organisations identify people who may be unsuitable for the job.

4.1 Types of Disclosures

There are three different types of disclosure:

  • Standard: this checks for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings.
  • Enhanced: This includes the same as the standard check plus any additional information held by local police that is reasonably considered relevant to the workforce being applied for (adult, child or ‘other’ workforce). ‘Other’ workforce means those who do not work with children or adults specifically, but potentially both, for example taxi drivers. In this case, the police will only release information that’s relevant to the post being applied for.
  • Enhanced with list checks: this is like the enhanced check, but includes a check of the DBS barred lists.

4.2 Update Service

The DBS also provides an online Update Service, to which staff or volunteers can subscribe. This helps them keep their criminal record certificate up to date, so it can be taken with them from one job to another, as long as they remain within the same workforce (always working with adults, for example). The Update Service is for standard and enhanced DBS checks only (see 4.1 Types of Disclosures).

Employers can do immediate online checks of a person’s status, as long as the person has registered with the Update Service.

A new DBS check will only be required if the Update Service check indicates there has been a change in the person’s status, due to new information added.

4.3 Cautions and convictions

Before an organisation asks a person to apply for a criminal record check through the Disclosure and Barring Service, it is legally responsible for making sure that they are entitled to submit an apply for the job role (see Eligibility, DBS).

Please note that certain old and minor cautions and convictions are no longer subject to disclosure; see Disclosure and Barring Service Filtering Guide.

5. Regulated Activity with Adults

See Regulated Activity (Adults) – Department of Health

Regulated Activity is work which involves close and unsupervised contact with adults, and which cannot be undertaken by a person who is on the Disclosure and Barring Service’s Barred List for adults.

There are six categories of people who will fall within the definition of Regulated Activity (including anyone who provides day to day management or supervision of those people):

  • providing health care;
  • providing personal care (e.g. providing/training/instructing/or offering advice or guidance on physical assistance with eating or drinking, going to the toilet, washing or bathing, dressing, oral care or care of the skin, hair or nails because of an adult’s age, illness or disability; or prompting and supervising an adult to undertake such activities where necessary because of their age, illness or disability);
  • providing social work;
  • providing assistance with cash, bills and/or shopping;
  • providing assistance in the conduct of a person’s own affairs, e.g. by virtue of an enduring power of attorney;
  • conveying / transporting an adult (because of their age, illness or disability) either to or from their place of residence and a place where they have received, or will be receiving, health care, personal care or social care; or between places where they have received or will be receiving health care, personal care or social care. This will not include family and friends or taxi drivers.

There is a duty on a ‘regulated activity provider’ to find out whether a person is on the barred list before allowing them to carry out regulated activity tasks.

It is a criminal offence for a person on the barred list to take part in regulated activity, or for an employer / voluntary organisation knowingly to employ a barred person in a regulated activity role.