Resources on criminal record checks, referrals and barring

Disclosure and Barring Service:
Full information about DBS checks in England and Wales. Click DBS checks: Guidance for a detailed list of briefings and forms.

DBS checks: Guidance for employers

Find out which DBS check is right for your employee:
Interactive tool to find out whether a standard, enhanced, or enhanced with barred list check is available for the employee or volunteer role, or only a basic check.


Reduced DBS fees

From 1 October 2019 the fees for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks will go down – from £25 to £23 for basic checks, from £26 to £23 for standard checks, and from £44 to £40 for enhanced checks.

The fee for the update service remains the same, at £13 per year.

Standard and enhanced checks for volunteers remain free of charge, but basic checks for volunteers incur the £25 fee.

Where standard and enhanced checks are done through an umbrella body, or basic checks are done through a responsible organisation, that body may make an additional charge.

The DBS says the reduced fees "reflect the significant improvements in efficiency that DBS has achieved over the last few years and provide an opportunity for us to pass some of these benefits back to customers through lower pricing".

| Read DBS news release here  |

In Northern Ireland, fees for Access NI checks were reduced from £26 to £18 on 1 April 2019.

Recent application changes for enhanced DBS checks

From 1 August 2019, DBS is no longer amending applications for enhanced checks where an address at which the applicant has resided within the past five years has not been declared in section C of the application. If an address is missing, DBS will withdraw the application, and will notify the registered body which submitted the application. It will not inform  the applicant.

Similarly, if a registered body submits incorrect information in section X on the workforce (X61 on the paper application, "PositionAppliedFor" in e-Bulk applications) or home-based checks (X66/"WorkingAtHomeAddress") DBS will contact the registered body to try to resolve the query. If there has been an error or omission the application will be withdrawn and the registered body, but not the applicant, will be notified. 

No refund is given if DBS withdraws an application for the above reasons.

Basic DBS checks

The provision in the Police Act 1997 for criminal conviction certificates, providing information only about convictions and conditional cautions that are unspent (i.e. still "live") under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, was not implemented for England and Wales until September 2017. Criminal conviction certificates are now referred to as basic DBS checks, and are available for any job or role, or for an individual's personal use.

Prior to September 2017, Disclosure Scotland provided basic checks not only for people living and working in Scotland, but also for people in England and Wales. Basic checks in Northern Ireland are available from Access NI.

An individual can apply online for their own basic DBS check or apply through a responsible organisation (RO) approved by the DSC, or can give consent for their employer, potential employer or organisation for which they will volunteer to apply through a responsible organisation. DBS guidance on basic checks includes a link to a list of responsible organisations. Basic DBS checks cost £25 (£23 from 1 October 2019), including for volunteers. Since June 2019 online applications by individuals can be made in Welsh, but the certificate will be in English. 

There are many situations where standard and enhanced checks are not available but organisations may want basic checks for employees or volunteers, for example where they will be handling money but not in a senior finance role for which a standard check would be available, or will be dealing with the public which could include children but not in a "regulated activity" for which an enhanced check would be available.

Criminal record checks and GDPR

In the past, many organisations tried to obtain criminal record checks for everyone working in their organisation, even where there was no lawful reason for doing this. Seeking checks – and therefore gaining access to criminal records information – where there is no legitimate purpose in doing so has been unlawful since data protection legislation was introduced in the UK 1984, and seeking standard and enhanced checks even for roles for which they are not lawfully available under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exceptions) Orders has been unlawful since 1975. But the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 on 25 May 2018 has focused minds on the relationship between criminal record checks and data protection legislation.

From the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the legal basics:

  • To process personal data about criminal convictions or offences, you must have both a lawful basis under article 6 of the GDPR and either legal authority or official authority for the processing under article 10;
  • The Data Protection Act 2018 deals with this type of data in a similar way to special category data, and sets out specific conditions providing lawful authority for processing it;
  • You can also process this type of data if you have official authority to do so because you are processing the data in an official capacity;
  • You cannot keep a comprehensive register of criminal convictions unless you do so in an official capacity;
  • You must determine your condition for lawful processing of offence data (or identify your official authority for the processing) before you begin the processing, and you should document this.

From Unlock, a national charity providing information, advice and support to people with convictions and to employers, key points for employers and volunteer-involving organisations:

  • Collecting criminal records at application stage is unlikely to be necessary and therefore in breach of the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018;
  • Collecting at any stage must be justified by a link between purpose and processing;
  • You must identify a lawful basis for processing and meet a condition of processing;
  • Applicants have data subject rights that must be upheld;
  • Explaining how you will uphold applicants' rights is key to meeting the condition of processing.