DBS checks and your mental health

Explains what a DBS check is, and what you can do if you are unhappy with the information held about you by the police, including information about your mental health. Applies to England and Wales.

Terms you need to know

Term

Meaning

Basic DBS check

A check of your criminal record which will show your convictions and cautions which are not spent. You can apply for a basic DBS check yourself if you live or work in England or Wales.

Caution

This is a formal warning about future conduct given by a senior police officer, usually in a police station, after a person has committed an offence. It is used as an alternative to a charge and possible prosecution.

Some cautions are described as 'conditional'. This means a person must follow certain conditions for a period of time after the caution is issued, to avoid being prosecuted for the offence. A caution with no conditions is described as a 'simple' caution.

Certificate dispute form

This is the form you use if you are unhappy about the content of a DBS Certificate.

Children

A child is a person under the age of 18.

Conviction

This is a finding by a court in Great Britain or overseas that you have committed a criminal act.

This will include findings of service disciplinary offences in the Court Martial if you are or were a member of the armed forces.

It will also include when you have been given a conditional discharge or an absolute discharge for an offence. You will have a conviction for an offence whether you pleaded guilty or were found guilty following a trial.

Criminal record

A record of convictions held on the Police National Computer (PNC) for individuals convicted of crimes.

DBS certificate

The document issued following an application to the DBS for a criminal records check. It will contain the personal information you have provided and the result of the checks undertaken.

DBS check

A check of your criminal record carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service. This used to be called a 'CRB check'.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

The public agency responsible for:

  • processing requests for criminal records checks
  • deciding whether to place or remove people from the children’s barred list and adults’ barred list for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Disclosure and Barring Service replaced the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

Enhanced DBS check

A check of your criminal record which will show details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings held on central police records (apart from protected convictions and cautions) plus additional information held on local police records that is reasonably considered relevant to the job in question.

Enhanced DBS with list check

A check of your criminal record which will show the same as an enhanced DBS check, but will also include a check of the Disclosure and Barring Service’s (DBS) children’s and adults’ barred lists. These are lists of individuals who are barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.

Filtering

Filtering is the process which identifies and removes protected convictions and cautions so they are no longer disclosed on a DBS certificate. Convictions and cautions are not 'wiped' from your record, they are simply not disclosed on the DBS certificate.

Final warning

These no longer exist, but were given to young people under the age of 18 if the police decided not to prosecute them and they had already received a reprimand for a previous offence.

They were also given for first offences that were too serious for a reprimand.

Independent Monitor

An independent body responsible for reviewing disputes from applicants regarding local police information disclosed on enhanced DBS Certificates.

Local police records

Police records, not held on the Police National Computer, containing non-conviction information.

Mental Health Act 1983

A law that applies to England and Wales which allows people to be detained in hospital (sectioned) if they have a mental illness and need treatment. You can only be kept in hospital if certain conditions are met.

See our information on the Mental Health Act.

Place of safety

A locally agreed place where the police may take you to be assessed, usually a police station or a hospital. A police station should normally only be used in an emergency.

Protected convictions and cautions

Convictions and cautions which will be removed from your DBS certificate by filtering. Whether convictions will be protected will depend on the type of offence, when you were convicted or cautioned, and how old you were when convicted or cautioned.

Reprimand

The equivalent of a caution for young people aged under 18. These no longer exist. See also, final warning.

Responsible Organisation

This is an organisation registered with the DBS to submit basic checks through a web service. A responsible organisation is responsible for confirming your identity, that information supplied in the application for a basic check is accurate and that you have given your consent to submit the application. You can apply to a responsible organisation, or a prospective employer can apply to them.

The gov.uk website provides a list of Responsible Organisations.

Spent convictions or cautions

A conviction or caution that, after a period of time, can be treated as if it never existed and no longer needs to be disclosed in a basic DBS check. 

Simple cautions become spent immediately at the moment they are issued, while conditional cautions become spent after 3 months.

Spent convictions and cautions may still be disclosed in standard or enhanced DBS checks.

Standard DBS check

A check of your criminal record which will show details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings held on central police records (apart from protected convictions and cautions).

Subject access request

A written request to an organisation asking for details of the personal information they hold about you.

See our information on accessing your personal information.

Unspent convictions or cautions

When a person is convicted of a crime, that conviction is considered to be irrelevant after a set amount of time (the rehabilitation period), except in very limited circumstances. 

After the rehabilitation period for a conviction has lapsed, the conviction is referred to as spent. This period of time varies according to the sentence received.

A conviction is described as unspent if the rehabilitation period associated with it has not yet lapsed.

Simple cautions become spent immediately at the moment they are issued, while conditional cautions become spent after 3 months.

Vulnerable adult

A person aged 18 or over, who receives or may need community care services because of a disability, age or illness, and who is or may be unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.

 


This information was published in November 2018. We will revise it in 2020.


Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z

Training

Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today