A DBS certificate is a physical copy showing someone’s suitability for a particular job to employers after a criminal record check has been conducted.

The DBS checks for any relevant spent or unspent convictions and cautions, warnings and reprimands and helps employers identify unsuitable people for a specific position.

These checks are made against a person’s criminal record and barred lists.

They were previously known as CRB checks.

Essentially, they are background checks made to ascertain the criminal record of an applicant and, to some extent, their suitability when it comes to working with vulnerable groups (children and adults)

What does DBS stand for?

DBS Stands for Disclosure and Barring Service. DBS is the name of the organisation responsible for processing applications for either a standard DBS check, enhanced check or basic check.

The formation of DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) was a result of a merger between the CRB (i.e. Criminal Records Bureau) with the ISA (i.e. Independent Safeguarding Authority) (1)

This merger that happened in 2012 created both a CRB list and barred lists.

The union’s sole purpose is to safeguard as well as protect vulnerable adults and children in different workplaces, by ensuring that a person’s criminal convictions are not overlooked by employers of these organisations.

The DBS checks usually focus on preventing unsuitable individuals from getting near vulnerable members of society. Any responsible organisation dealing with these groups of people must ensure they conduct a criminal record information.

After DBS checks, DBS certificates are issued as physical copies of an individual’s suitability for the job. They contain all their personal details and relevant information about their past.

Any prospective employer can acquire this information, which is extracted from a police national computer.

A standard DBS check

A standard DBS check usually checks for cautions, spent and unspent convictions, barred list, reprimands or final warnings.

Applicants can also be compared against the children or adults barred lists during standard DBS checks.

In most cases, the employers will initiate and pay for the DBS check cost.

There are specific jobs in which DBS checks are needed during a job application. Applicants for such positions are often required to either apply for a basic, enhanced DBS check, or a standard DBS check.

All of these provide almost the same information as the basic DBS checks, but police forces will specify the right one for specific occupations.

What happens when you lose your DBS certificate?

If you happen to lose your DBS certificate, do not worry, it is possible to get a free replacement of your DBS certificate from the DBS if you never received it. If however, you lost the certificate after already receiving it, then you will have to apply for a new one and pay the applicable fees.

How to re-order a DBS certificate

You can re-order a reprint of your standard, basic and enhanced DBS check certificate. But, the following rules apply:

  • You must table your reprint request within the first three months since the certificate was issued.
  • You must first wait at least 14 days after the issuance of your DBS certificate to request a re-print.
  • There must be a match between the address of reprint and the one you provided on the application form.
  • You must ensure that you utilize a mail redirect service in the event of moving address after processing your application.

Please note that it takes five working days for the DBS to reprint requests.

Why have I not received my DBS certificate yet?

It usually takes 5 – 7 workdays for a DBS certificate to arrive, but a DBS check will usually take around eight weeks to be completed.

The reasons for the process taking longer than that or for you not receiving the certificate on time includes:

  • Giving a wrong address on the application form.
  • Providing inaccurate or misleading information to the DBS as they usually call to verify the information.
  • Requesting further checks by the area police department
  • Losing the certificate during the posting process.
  • Sending the DBS check to the wrong recipient. For example, in the case of a mailbox that is shared.

Request a basic DBS check

To get a copy of your criminal record, you must apply for the Basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This is referred to as ‘A basic disclosure’. The cost is around £18. People working in England and Wales can be issued with it.

Individuals living in Northern Ireland or Scotland can only be issued a basic DBS check if the job they are applying for is in Wales or England.

If you are applying for a job in Scotland or Northern Ireland, there is another way of applying for basic DBS.

Here, the check will only include the convictions that are not ‘spent’ and other regulated activity. For instance, certain types of cautions will disappear after three months.

Another requirement is that one has to be 16 years and above to be eligible to apply.

To receive your certificate, you will have to wait for 14 days.

Here’s what you will need

Applicants will be required to submit the following in order to apply for a DBS check.

Apply online

The service is open from 8 am to 11:30 pm. The online application is open from 8 am to 11.30 pm every day.

Before you start

It is important to ensure that the basic DBS check you have chosen is the correct one for you. However, certain roles will require your employer to apply for a criminal check of a higher level.

Hence, you should first ascertain the basic DBS check you need. You can also consider asking your employer if you are in doubt.

How to pay

You can pay for the basic DBS check yourself or get someone else like an employer or relative to do it for you.

You can use your debit or credit card for making payments. The other alternative is the use of Google Pay or Apple Pay.

In the event that you are paying for yourself, you must note that you will need to pay when applying.

And in case you are expecting someone else to pay for you, they must do it within ten days after you submit your application.

Get help to use the online service

You can always call the DBS helpline on 03000 200 190 and select option three and then 1 for any assistance on queries about online applications.

Other ways to apply

There is an alternative of applying through other companies. DBS provides a list of companies that you can apply through.

Requesting your police record

There are situations when a police record is requested instead of a DBS check. These situations include the following:

  • When applying for some specific visas.
  • When you want to look at the police file without receiving a certificate. The police files often show convictions and cautions that cannot be found on your official criminal record.

Transgender applications

Transgender applicants who do not wish to reveal details of their past identity to their employers can reach out to the DBS transgender application team for assistance.

This article has been written by experts and fact-checked by experts. We only link to high-quality sources like government information & data, original reporting and interviews with industry experts. Reputable publishers are also sourced and cited where appropriate to support the facts within our articles.

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