DBS update service

Aim of this page

This page explains the Disclosure & Barring Service’s (DBS) update service, as well as the “one certificate” change in 2013.

Why is this important?

The update service is a subscription service that lets you keep your DBS certificate up-to-date so you can take it with you when you move jobs or roles. The employer can then carry out free, online, instant checks to see if any new information has come to light since the certificate’s issue – this is called a ‘status check’.

To coincide with launching the update service in 2013, the DBS changed to only issuing one certificate, usually to the applicant. They no longer send a copy to the registered body. This change is being referred to “one certificate”. Employers will now need to ask you to see your DBS check.

There are both pros and cons of these services and it’s important to have an understanding of how the systems work and what information will be available to your employer.

Introduction

This information looks at specific areas that will be of interest to people with convictions. To keep it brief, we haven’t repeated the detailed information that the DBS has published on these changes. They have gone into the processes in some detail in their guidance. More generally, the DBS has lots of information online about their process for  customers and stakeholders as well as latest news and corporate/policy information

Update service

The DBS update service lets you keep your DBS certificates up to date online and allows employers to check online to see whether there are any changes to the certificate that you have shown them. The service costs £13 (free for volunteers). This means you will be able to take your DBS certificate with you from role to role, within the same workforce, where the same type and level of check is required.

Who can carry out a status check?

An employer doesn’t have to join the update service, or pay a fee, to check a DBS of someone who’s check is part of the update service. You will be able to check who has carried out a status check on you.

What does an employer need to do to carry out a status check?

  • Have your consent either verbally or in writing
  • See the original disclosure to check it is the same type and level as they are legally entitled to, make sure that the right checks have been carried out and see what, if any, information was disclosed about you
  • Check your identity.
  • Check your name on the DBS check matches this identity.
  • Note the DBS check reference number, your name and date of birth.
  • Comply with the DBS code of practice; which includes having a policy on the recruitment of people with a criminal record.

Can I stop an organisation checking the status of my DBS?

Yes. You will need to contact them and withdraw your consent for any future checks. If they fail to stop they would be breaking the law by accessing data they were not entitled to see. If they persist you could remove the check from your account but this would also mean other organisations would not be able to carry out a status check on it. If they persist, you should contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.

This means that, broadly, you should be careful who you give your consent to. If you were to withdraw your consent, if you think they would continue to check (even though it would be against the law) you’d have to remove the check from your account. Given you cannot then add it back onto the account again, you would have to apply for a new check.

Will filtering change the status of my certificate?

The filtering of a caution or conviction would not cause a status change through the update service. A status change is only prompted when there is new information to be added, or an offence needs to be changed or amended, or because you have become barred, whereas an offence being filtered out would mean a removal of information from your Certificate.

If you wish to have a new DBS check which does not show the offence that has been filtered out, you will need to apply for a new DBS check.

Given that, once something is filtered, you no longer need to disclose it, if you have a DBS check with something on it that has since been filtered, it would be sensible to apply for a new certificate.

Can I subscribe to the update service if I have a manual check?

Manual certificates are usually produced by the DBS when a technical issue occurs when retrieving data held on the Police National Computer (PNC) and transferring it to an automatically generated certificate. A common example is when someone has appealed their conviction and the appeal has been dismissed. Because of the way in which the information is recorded on the PNC it fails to display the original disposal on the certificate and a manual certificate will be generated.

Currently, anybody who has a manual certificate can’t join the Update Service as manual certificates can’t be kept up to date online. The DBS are currently working to overcome this issue and we’re feeding into this work so if this has caused you a problem, do let us know.

My employer has requested an early confirmation check; what is this?

As a subscriber to the update service, with your permission your employer is entitled to carry out status checks to see if the information on your DBS check has changed.

An early confirmation check is where they have been informed that there has been a change, and have requested an early confirmation check to see if the change came as a result of you being placed on either of the DBS barred lists.

The “one certificate” change

To coincide with the launch of the update service 2013, the DBS no longer automatically issues a copy of your check to the registered body. Employers will need to ask you for sight of your DBS check

Does the disclosure still get sent to the employer?

No, not normally. However, registered bodies will be entitled to ask the DBS for a copy of your DBS certificate if you don’t provide them with an updated certificate as a result of a change reported through the update service. For this to happen, all of the following conditions must apply:

  1. You must be subscribed to the update service
  2. The employer carried out a status check which revealed a change to the DBS check, and as a result;
  3. You have applied for a new DBS check; and
  4. The DBS issued the new DBS check to you more than 28 days ago; and
  5. You have not shown the employer your new DBS check

If you raise a dispute on the new check, the DBS will not issue a copy to the registered body until 28 days after the dispute is resolved.

Can I apply for a check without a particular job or role secured?

Technically, no. However, once you’ve applied for a DBS certificate for a particular role, so long as you subscribe to the update service at application stage, or within 14 days of getting it, you’ll be able to use this for future roles (assuming the same level of check is required)

Can any employer ask me to show them my DBS check?

Technically, no. An employer is only entitled to ask for a certificate that is of the level that the job or position relates to.

This means that any employer is entitled to ask to see a basic disclosure. Only roles or positions that meet certain eligibility are entitled to see a standard or enhanced level check.

However, in practice, given the update service and one certificate change, people will increasingly ‘own’ their DBS check, and so there is a risk that it becomes commonplace for employers to ask to see a DBS check, even if the role/position that it relates to is not entitled to it.

Will the employer know if I’ve got a criminal record?

Possibly. Umbrella bodies don’t get to see your disclosure, but they’re told by the DBS if there is any information on it, i.e. a caution or conviction. They might then tell the organisation that is ultimately requesting the check. The idea behind this is that, for individuals with ‘clear’ disclosures, the employer will get notified of this by the umbrella body, and therefore don’t have to wait for the individual to provide them with a copy. For individuals with a caution or conviction on the disclosure, the organisation will get told to wait to see the certificate that the individual has been sent.

This might mean that, if something gets disclosed on your DBS disclosure, the organisation might know that something has been disclosed on there (although they won’t know the details) and it’s likely that they’ll be keen for you to show it to them.

Benefits

  1. Ensures that you know what you need to disclose to an employer, giving you the opportunity to disclose this information in the way you think is best for you.
  2. Minimises the risk of inaccurate information being disclosed to a third-party, as you are responsible for providing the certificate to the employer, and so you can take steps to challenge any inaccurate or disproportionate disclosure before you show it to them.
  3. Clarifies what, if any, information the police decide to disclose as ‘other relevant information’, allowing you to know this and explain this to the employer.
  4. Prevents ‘over-disclosure’, as the check does not disclose filtered information, or information no longer stored on the PNC.

Downsides

  1. The responsibility for covering the cost of the Update Service is more clearly placed with the individual, rather than the employer.
  2. It still isn’t possible to get a DBS check before you apply for a particular job.
  3. It makes it easier for employers to ask for the DBS checks of applicants, even if they’re not eligible for one.
  4. The responsibility for the disclosure of criminal conviction information shifts from the DBS to the individual – whilst in terms of inaccurate information, this is an advantage, it may result in criminal conviction information becoming integrated more and more as part of the ordinary recruitment process.
  5. There is the potential for the point at which a DBS disclosure is requested to move to being made much earlier in the recruitment process. Currently, as employers usually cover the cost of the check, they only do it after selection, whereas this may move towards using it as a pre-selection tool.
  6. There is also an issue regarding how the disclosure of non-conviction information operates, given that the DBS is sector-based (i.e. applying to working with either children or vulnerable adults, or both) rather than specific to a particular position, and so could potentially lead to much more non-conviction information being disclosed (as information could be more readily seen as being relevant).

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Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on criminal record checks for employment
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Question – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

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This page was last fully reviewed and updated in September 2017. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to feedback@unlock.org.uk
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