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.

What will show up on a DBS check?

What will show up on each type of DBS check?

What kind of check is it? What will show up?
Basic DBS check Any convictions or cautions that are unspent.
Standard DBS check Details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings (apart from protected convictions and cautions) held on central police records. 
Enhanced DBS check The same as the standard check plus any additional information held on local police records that is reasonably considered relevant to the job in question.
Enhanced DBS with list check

The same as an Enhanced DBS check, but it will also include a check of the Disclosure and Barring Service's children and adults barred lists – a list of individuals who are barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.

This level of check will only be needed for jobs which involve caring for, supervising or being in sole charge of children or vulnerable adults.

 There is information which helps you find out whether a conviction is spent on the gov.uk website, and a similar page on the charity Unlock’s website.

What is a protected conviction or caution?

Protected convictions or cautions are convictions or cautions which are filtered during the DBS check process - this means that they will not appear on the DBS certificate.

It used to be the case that all convictions and cautions would appear on a DBS check, until this practice was successfully challenged in court. Following this court case, the law was changed, and now certain types of conviction or caution will not appear on your DBS check. 

There are some offences which will never be filtered from a DBS check (so they will always appear on your DBC certificate). You can find a list of these offences on the gov.uk website. 

The list has over 1,000 offences on it, but some of the more common ones are:

  • certain sexual offences
  • offences of violence such as ABH, GBH, affray and robbery (but not common assault)
  • offences relating to the supply of drugs (but not simple possession)
  • safeguarding offences.

If you have been convicted of any of these offences, or cautioned for any any of these offences, they will always appear on your DBS certificate.

For all other offences, whether or not they appear on your DBS certificate will depend on a number of factors.

This information was accurate at the time of publishing (November 2018).

However, the UK Supreme Court ruled in January 2019 that certain aspects of the rules relating to previous convictions appearing on DBS checks are unlawful.

So the law in this area is likely to change - we will update our information once the new law is in place. 

When does a caution appear on a DBS certificate?

Some types of caution are included on the list of offences that will never be filtered – these will always appear on your DBS certificate.

All other cautions will appear on your DBS unless they meet the following conditions, in which case they will be filtered and will not appear on your DBS certificate:

  • Cautions received when you were aged under 18, and two years have passed since the date of the caution.
  • Cautions received when you were aged 18 or older, and six years have passed since the date of the caution.

When does a conviction appear on a DBS certificate?

The term conviction includes absolute and conditional discharges, and court-imposed bind-overs.

Your conviction will always appear on your DBS certificate if:

  • the conviction was for an offence on the list of offences that will never be filtered
  • the conviction resulted in a custodial sentence including a suspended sentence (a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act 1983 is not a custodial sentence), or
  • you have been convicted of more than one offence, in which case all of your convictions will appear on your DBS certificate. This includes when you have been convicted of more than one offence at the same court appearance.

But if all three of the following apply to you:

  • You have been convicted of only one offence.
  • The offence is not included on the list of offences that will never be filtered.
  • You received a non-custodial sentence.

Then there are two types of conviction which will be filtered, and will not appear on your DBS certificate:

  • Convictions imposed when you were aged under 18, and five-and-a-half years have passed since the date of the conviction.
  • Convictions imposed when you were aged 18 or over, and 11 years have passed since the date of the conviction.

Examples:

  • Aaron was 17 when he was cautioned for possession of cannabis in 2003, and 18 when he was convicted of possession of a class A drug and sentenced to a probation order in 2004. His caution is protected because he was under 18 when he received it and at least two years have passed. It will not show up on his DBS certificate. His conviction would be protected from 2015 and would not appear on any DBS certificated applied for after that date.
  • Lisette was convicted of four counts of theft in 1995 when she was 17, and was sentenced to 120 hours community service. Lisette has more than one conviction, so her convictions are not protected and will always show up on a DBS certificate.
  • Jack was cautioned for theft in 2008 when he was 16, and convicted of robbery in 2009 when he was 17. His caution became protected after two years because he was under 18 when he received it, so it would not show up on a DBS certificate from a check carried out now. However, robbery is on the list of offences that will never be filtered, so Jack’s robbery conviction will always show up on a DBS certificate.

Will a DBS check include information about my mental health problem?

A basic or standard DBS check won’t include this information, but an enhanced DBS check will include details of any non-conviction information held about you on local police records which the police consider relevant. This is formally known as 'approved information', but is more commonly referred to as 'non-conviction information' or 'police intelligence'.

This could include information which relates to your mental health – for example, if you have ever been removed to a place of safety by the police under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (see our information on sectioning to find out more).

However, although it is possible for the police to include non-conviction information on an enhanced DBS check, it is rare that they do include it. Between October 2017 and September 2018, only 0.1% of DBS certificates included approved information from local police records.

How do the police decide what information to include?

Before including non-conviction information on your DBS certificate, the police must ‘reasonably believe’ that the information is relevant and that it ought to be disclosed. This means they should consider the following:

  • There should be no presumption either in favour of or against disclosing the particular information. All information should be assessed on its own merits for inclusion or exclusion from a DBS certificate.
  • Information must be relevant. Information must only be disclosed if the police reasonably believe it to be relevant to the job you have applied for. It should be serious enough to justify inclusion and should be sufficiently current, taking into account the age of the information, your age at the time of the incident and your conduct since the incident. The information should also have come from a trustworthy source.
  • The impact it has on you. The police should consider how disclosing any information may have an impact on you.

The Home Office has issued guidance to the police which help with these decisions. This guidance specifically says that “The fact of detention under sections 135(1) or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 is unlikely, in itself, to be sufficient to justify disclosure”. It goes on to say that: 

  • A key consideration is whether your behaviour during the course of the incident presented a particular risk or harm to others, such as by the threat or use of violence.
  • They should also take into account how long ago the incident took place.
  • If the police believe that mental health related information is relevant to the application for a DBS certificate then you should be given the opportunity to tell them about your current state of health before they decide whether to disclose the information.

The police have to balance any risk posed to the public against your right to privacy. 

Example

Leila is 28 years old. When she was 18, she experienced significant mental health problems following a family bereavement. On one occasion, she became very distressed in a shopping centre and was removed by the police to a place of safety under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

She spent a few hours in a police cell before being taken to hospital to be assessed under the Mental Health Act 1983. She has been well ever since and has never had any further involvement with the police.

Leila recently applied to work in a children’s home. She has been offered the job and been sent a DBS check application form. Leila is worried that the DBS certificate will include details of when she was held in a police cell.

Because her new job will involve regular unsupervised work with children, Leila will need to have an Enhanced DBS check. This will include relevant non-conviction information held on local police records. However, the police will need to decide:

  • whether the information about Leila is relevant to the job at the children’s home
  • whether the incident is serious enough to justify inclusion.

The incident in this case did not happen because Leila committed a crime, but purely because she was mentally unwell. It happened 10 years ago when Leila was 18, and she has not had any involvement with the police since that time. Also, the guidance on disclosure says: 'The fact of detention under section 135(1) or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 is unlikely, in itself, to be sufficient to justify disclosure.'

In these circumstances, it is unlikely that the police could justify including the information. If they did, Leila could ask the Disclosure and Barring Service to review the certificate.

Can I find out what information a DBS check would contain in advance?

Yes. You could make a subject access request to the police to find out what information they hold about you. See our information on accessing personal information to find out how to do this.

What if the information is wrong or irrelevant?

Your DBS certificate will be sent to you, not your prospective employer. This will give you an opportunity to challenge any of the information in the certificate. 

Asking for a review

You can ask the Disclosure and Barring Service to carry out a review of your certificate if:

  • the information in the certificate is wrong – for example, if it includes information which is inaccurate or about another person
  • you feel that information in the certificate is irrelevant – for example, information about your mental health that has no relevance to the job you have applied for.

To do this, you need to complete a certificate dispute form. You can find a link to download the certificate dispute form, as well as guidance to help you complete the form, on the gov.uk website. 

Make sure you do this within three months of the date on the certificate. The Disclosure and Barring Service will then pass the dispute to the relevant police force to reconsider. 

If you have any queries you can call the DBS customer services helpline on 03000 200 190.

What could happen afterwards

If you apply for a review of your DBS certificate, a few different things may happen as a result:

  • If the police decide to remove or amend the information which was disclosed, the Disclosure and Barring Service will send you a replacement certificate.
  • If the police decide not to remove or amend the information which was disclosed, the dispute will be referred to the Independent Monitor to investigate.
  • If the Independent Monitor agrees with you, they will direct the Disclosure and Barring Service to issue a revised DBS certificate with the irrelevant information removed.

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


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