My right to work with children and vulnerable adults

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

What will show up?

What will show up on a DBS check?

It depends on what level of check is carried out and whether any convictions or cautions are protected.

What is a protected conviction or caution?

It used to be the case that all convictions and cautions appeared on a DBS check but this practice was successfully challenged in court. Now there are certain protected convictions or cautions which are filtered and do not appear on the DBS check.

There is a list of offences that will never be filtered from a DBS certificate – if you have been convicted of or cautioned for any of these offences they will always appear on your DBS certificate. 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

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

Cautions

Unless the offence is on the list of offences that will never be filtered, the following cautions will be filtered and will not appear on your DBS certificate:

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

Convictions

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

  • If the conviction is for an offence on the list of offences that will never be filtered, it will appear on your DBS certificate.
  • If you have received a conviction that resulted in a custodial sentence, it will appear on your DBS certificate.
  • If you have been convicted of more than one offence, all 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.

If you have only been convicted of one offence (not on the list of offences that will never be filtered) and you received a non-custodial sentence, then the following convictions will be filtered and will not appear on your DBS certificate:

  • Convictions imposed when you were under 18, and five-and-a-half years have passed since the date of the conviction.
  • Convictions imposed when you were 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. As she has more than one conviction, her convictions are not protected and will show up on a DBS certificate.
  • Jack was cautioned for theft when he was 16 in 2008 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, and it would not show up on a DBS check carried out now. However, robbery is on the list of offences that will never be filtered and will always show up on a DBS certificate.

What will show up on different types of check?

What kind of check is it? What will show up?
Standard DBS check Details of all spent and unspent convictionscautionsreprimands 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, but it will also include a check of the Disclosure and Barring Service 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.

Your prospective employer will tell you if a DBS check is needed for your job and, if so, what level of check is required.

Will it include information about my mental health problem?

A 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).

How do the police decide what information to include?

Before including non-conviction information in 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 – for example, the police should not include all information about your mental health regardless of its relevance.
  • 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. Account should be taken of the impact on you of disclosing the information.
  • Opportunity to comment. The police should consider whether you should be given an opportunity to comment on the information before it is disclosed. The Gov.uk website has guidance on how you may make representations about information the police may release on a DBS certificate.

The guidance for the police on disclosing non-conviction information from the Gov.uk website specifically says: 'On its own, information relating to physical health or mental health is unlikely to be appropriate for disclosure.'

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

Example

Janet 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.

Janet recently applied to work in a children’s home. She has been offered the job and been sent a DBS check application form. Janet 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, Janet will need to have an Enhanced DBS check, which will include relevant non-conviction information held on local police records. However, the police will need to decide:

  • whether the information about Janet 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 Janet committed a crime, but purely because she was mentally unwell. It happened 10 years ago when Janet was 18 and she has not had any involvement with the police since. 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, Janet could ask the Disclosure and Barring Service to review the certificate.

Can I find out what it 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 the certificate if:

  • the information in the certificate is wrong – for example, it includes information about another person or is inaccurate
  • 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. The Disclosure and Barring Service will pass the dispute to the relevant police force to reconsider
  • make sure you do this within three months of the date on the certificate

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

What could happen afterwards:

  • If the police decide to remove or amend the information disclosed, the Disclosure and Barring Service will send you a replacement certificate.
  • If the police decide not to remove or amend the information 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 which doesn’t include the irrelevant information.

 


This information was published in February 2017. We will revise it in 2019.


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