DBS checks and your mental health
Explains what a DBS check is, and what you can do if you are unhappy with the information the police hold about you. This includes information about your mental health.
What will show up on a DBS check?
This depends on the level of check you have. Standard DBS checks show more than basic checks, and enhanced checks show the most information.
This page covers:
- What shows up on a basic DBS check?
- What shows up on a standard DBS check?
- What shows up on an enhanced DBS check?
- What about an enhanced DBS with list check?
- Will a DBS check include information about my mental health problem?
- How do the police decide what information to include in a DBS check?
- Can I find out what information a DBS check will contain in advance?
A basic DBS check will only show cautions and convictions that are unspent.
A standard DBS check includes more information than a basic DBS check. It will include all unspent cautions and convictions, but also some spent ones.
Some spent cautions and convictions are not included. These are known as protected or filtered offences.
Cautions and convictions for offences, known as special offences, are treated differently.
Protected or filtered offences
Certain convictions and cautions are filtered during the check process for a standard or enhanced DBS. This means they won’t show on your DBS certificate. Whether they are filtered depends on:
- Whether you were given a caution or conviction
- How old you were when cautioned or convicted
- How long it is since you were cautioned or convicted
The UK government website has a list of specified offences. There are over 1,000 but the most common ones are of a violent or sexual nature or relate to safeguarding of adults or children.
If you were cautioned for one of these offences when you were aged 18 or under, it can be removed from your DBS check. If you were over the age of 18, it will always appear on your DBS check.
If you were convicted for one of these offences (whatever your age), it will never be removed from a standard or enhanced DBS check.
- Lysette was 17 when she was cautioned for possession of cannabis in 2005. And she was 18 when she was convicted of possession of a class A drug and sentenced to a probation order in 2006. Her caution is protected because she was under 18. It will not show up on her DBS certificate. Her conviction would become protected 11 years after the date she was convicted, in 2017. So it would not appear on any DBS certificate applied for after that date.
- Jack was cautioned for theft in 2008 when he was 16. And he was convicted of robbery in 2009 when he was 17. He was under 18 when he received his caution, so it would not show up on a DBS certificate. But robbery is a 'specified' offence, which means it appears on the list of offences that will never be filtered. So Jack's robbery conviction will always show up on a DBS certificate.
This contains the same information as an enhanced DBS check. It also includes a check of the DBS’s children’s and adults’ barred lists. This is a list of individuals who are barred from working with children or vulnerable adults. You’ll only need this level of check for jobs which involve caring for, supervising or being in sole charge of children or vulnerable adults.
A basic or standard DBS check won't include information about your mental health.
An enhanced DBS check will include certain information about you held on local police records, if the police consider it relevant. This is known as 'approved information'. You may also hear it called '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.
But it is very rare for the police to include information on an enhanced DBS check that doesn't relate to a conviction.
Before including information on your DBS certificate, the police must reasonably believe that the information is relevant and needs to be disclosed.
All information should be assessed on its own merits for inclusion or exclusion from a DBS certificate. And the police should consider the following when thinking about whether to include any information:
- Whether the information is relevant to the job you have applied for. It should be relevant and serious enough to justify inclusion. It should also be sufficiently recent. So the police should look at how old the information is, your age at the time of any incident, and your conduct since the incident. And the information should have come from a trustworthy source.
- Any impact that disclosing this information has on you.
- Whether to give you the chance to comment. The police should consider whether you should be given an opportunity to comment on the information before it is disclosed. But we understand that the police do not always do this. If you are worried about what the police might disclose, you can find out what information they have in advance. The UK government website has guidance on what you can say about information the police may release on a DBS certificate.
The police have to balance any risk posed to the public against your right to privacy.
The UK government has guidance to help the police make the decisions about what information to disclose. This guidance states that being detained under sections 135(1) or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 is unlikely to be something the police should disclose.
The police should consider whether any behaviour that led to you being detained under these sections involved risk or harm to other people. For example, if the incident involved the threat or use of violence.
In some cases, the police may believe that information relating to your mental health is relevant to a DBS check. If they do, they should give you the chance to tell them about your current health before they decide whether to disclose the information.
Leila is 28 years old. When she was 18, she experienced significant mental health problems after her family member died.
She spent a few hours in a police cell before being taken to hospital to be assessed. 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 information held on local police records. 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. It happened 10 years ago when Leila was 18. She has not had any involvement with the police since that time. And government guidance states that being detained under section 135(1) or 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 is 'unlikely to be something the police should disclose'.
In these circumstances, it is unlikely that the police could justify including the information. If they did, Leila could ask the DBS to review her DBS certificate.
Enhanced DBS check
This is 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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Standard DBS check
This is 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).Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Enhanced DBS with list check
This is 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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This could be two different things:
- A statement read to you when you are arrested, interviewed and charged.
- A formal warning given by a senior police officer, usually in a police station, after a person has committed an offence. This is used instead of charging and potentially prosecuting someone. 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.
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 three months.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Spent convictions or cautions
This is 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 three months.
Spent convictions and cautions may still be disclosed in standard or enhanced DBS checks.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Local police records
These are police records, not held on the Police National Computer, containing non-conviction information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This is 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.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Place of safety
This is a locally agreed place where the police may take you to be assessed. It's usually a hospital but can be your home. A police station should only be used in an emergency.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA)
This is a law that applies to England and Wales which allows people to be detained in hospital (sectioned) if they have a mental health disorder and need treatment. You can only be kept in hospital if certain conditions are met.
See our pages on the Mental Health Act for more information.Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
The DBS is the public agency responsible for:
- Processing requests for criminal records checks, and
- Deciding whether to place or remove people from the children’s barred list and adults’ barred list for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
The DBS replaced the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).Visit our full listing of Legal Terms
This information was published in December 2022. We will revise it in 2025.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.