The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is introducing basic criminal record checks for people in England & Wales. This replaces the service previously provided by Disclosure Scotland.

This is a significant development for both people with criminal records and employers in England & Wales. We’re using this page as a one-stop-shop for the latest information, advice and updates. It’s been written primarily for people with convictions, but with employers and others in mind too.

This page was last updated in September 2017 and will be kept under regular review.

This page has the latest news, but you can also read all posts about basic criminal record checks and/or sign up to our mailing list to receive updates by email.

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What are basic checks?

Basic checks are a type of criminal record check that can be used by employers and other organisations, for example when they are recruiting staff. They can also be used by insurance companies in validating claims.

Basic checks show any ‘unspent’ criminal records (as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974). Once a conviction or caution is ‘spent’, it no longer shows on a basic check.

What is happening and when?

Since 1st September 2017, the DBS has begun processing basic criminal record check applications.

There will be a transition phase between 1st September and 31st December, where basic checks will still be available from Disclosure Scotland too. After the 31st December 2017, basic checks will no longer be available to applicants in England & Wales from Disclosure Scotland.

To start with, the basic check service from DBS will be open to a small number of large registered organisations. This will be followed by an online process for individuals, expected to be from 1st January 2018.

Disclosure Scotland will continue to process basic check applications for people in Scotland.

We’re waiting for more information from the DBS about the exact timescales, and once we have these, they’ll be on this page.

The DBS has published guidance and policies on basic checks. These are available here.

Why is this important?

  1. It’s been a long time coming – The introduction of basic checks has been in the business plan of the DBS since 2002 (back when it was the CRB, the Criminal Records Bureau).
  2. It’s highly likely to mean an overall increase in criminal record checks – The DBS is anticipating around 1.7 million basic checks in the first year. This compares to just under 1.2 million in 2015/16 when it was done by Disclosure Scotland.
  3. It means criminal record checks will be available online – The basic DBS check will be available in both paper form and online. The setting up of an online account (for both applicants and organisations) will allow access to what are referred to as “eCertificates”.
  4. It makes the type of DBS check being done even more important – Employers often refer to a role “involving a DBS check”. Up until now, reference to “a DBS check” could be taken as code for meaning a standard or enhanced check, which meant the disclosure of cautions and convictions, even once spent. Now, with the DBS doing a basic level check, it’s even more important that employers explain what type of check a specific role involves to make sure that applicants clearly understand what they need to disclose.
  5. It’ll hopefully reduce ineligible checks – We’ve been cautiously encouraging the introduction of basic checks as a key part of how to reduce the numbers of employers carrying out levels of checks (i.e. standard or enhanced checks) for roles that are not eligible for them.

How can I get a basic check?

Once fully operational, there will be two ways of getting a basic check from the DBS:

  1. Option 1 – The applicant applies directly to the DBS – This is via an online self-service channel run by the DBS. More details are below.
  2. Option 2 – The applicant applies via their employer or other registered organisation – This is where the applicant applies via an organisation registered with the DBS (referred to by the DBS as a “responsible organisation”) who are allowed to submit applications for basic checks via a DBS web service. More details are below.
If you live or work in Scotland, use Disclosure Scotland to get a basic check.

Do I get a choice?

It depends why you’re getting a basic check.

If you’ve been asked to get one as part of a recruitment process, the way an employer gets a basic check will vary depending on their recruitment process. They will normally advise you of the way they want you to do it.

However, you have to give your consent for a check to be done. So if you’d rather choose one option over another, you should be able to, but bear in mind that this might raise some questions with the employer.

Option 1 – Applying directly to the DBS

You can apply for a basic check by going directly to the DBS via an online self-service channel that they run. This is due to go-live in January 2018.

Key points:

  1. It costs £25.
  2. Your identity will be verified either by GOV.UK Verify or by the Post Office.
  3. You provide all the information online.
  4. It does not have option to give a 3rd party consent to view the check.
  5. It does not provide eResults to any intermediary or employer (as you have applied directly).
  6. You can choose to have your paper certificate sent to a 3rd party

Option 2 – Applying via a registered organisation

You can apply for a basic check through an organisation that is registered with the DBS. Referred to by the DBS as a “Responsible Organisation” (RO), an employer or other intermediary could be registered with the DBS. These are allowed to submit applications for basic checks via a DBS web service.

The DBS has guidance on the organisations that can be used.

Key points:

  1. The cost will vary – it will cost £25 plus whatever extra cost is charged by the intermediary.
  2. An employer will need to be registered with the DBS themselves, or use an intermediary that is registered, to get a basic DBS check through this route.
  3. To start with, only certain organisations will be able to get basic checks through this option. From 1st September 2017, the DBS call centre will be able to advise individuals of a list of these organisations.
  4. Only one paper check is issued – if the applicant consents, the paper check can be sent to an alternative address, such as the employer’s address.
  5. There will be an eResult sent to the registered organisation (see below)
  6. The check will be available online – known as an eCertificate (see below)
  7. The registered organisation will:
    1. Be responsible for collecting the information about you and verifying your identity.
    2. Be able to check the status online.
    3. Be able to request an electronic result (an eResult) – this is explained more below.

Should the check be sent to the applicant or the employer?

For either of the options above, the individual will be given the option to have the basic check sent to either their home address or an alternative address.

In the past, when applying for basic checks through Disclosure Scotland, employers have told individuals to put the employers’ address down for the certificate to go to.

Ultimately, this should be a choice for the individual, as it’s up to them where it gets sent to.

If you have a criminal record and you’re not sure whether it’s spent or not, you should consider putting your address down so that it comes to you first.

Even if you’re pretty confident that your criminal record is spent, we’d still advise that it is better for the check to be sent to you, so that you can be confident that it’s blank, before passing this onto the employer.

If there’s no way for you to get the results sent to you, and you’re worried that something will be disclosed, you should try and work out whether it’s spent. If you think it might still be unspent, you should think about having a conversation with the appropriate person at the organisation who will receive the check. Otherwise, the risk is that the organisation will think you’ve been dishonest if something comes up that you haven’t told them about.

(Note: We also always advise people to understand their own criminal record before they start applying for jobs or roles where they’re asked to disclose)

What are eCertificates?

All applications for a basic DBS check (whether by an individual or via a registered organisation) will happen online. The setting up of an online account (for both individuals and registered organisations) will allow access to “eCertificates”.

As we understand it:

  1. if an applicant applies directly to the DBS for a basic check, they’ll be able to see the certificate online as well as receive a paper copy.
  2. if an applicant applies for a basic DBS check via a registered organisation, the applicant will be asked the following questions:

“Do you wish to provide consent to the lead contact of RO to view your online DBS certificate when it has been issued?”

We’re waiting for further guidance from the DBS on how this will work.

What are eResults?

If a basic check is applied for via a registered organisation, the registered organisation can request an electronic result (an eResult).

After the application has been processed by the DBS system, it processes an eResult which the organisation can get.

The eResult gives an indication of the information that will appear on the check. There are two possibilities:

  1. A blank response – this indicates that no unspent convictions have been disclosed on the basic certificate) or
  2. The organisation is advised to wait to view the paper basic certificate – this suggests that something is disclosed on the paper basic check but no details are provided in the eResult.
We are concerned about the eResult process, particularly because of the damaging implications if the DBS make a mistake and include a spent criminal record on a basic check. This could mean that the employer is inappropriately informed about the presence of a criminal record.

We’ve raised our concerns with the DBS and the Home Office, and are keen to hear from anyone who has been affected by an eResult that has notified an employer about something they shouldn’t have been told. Get in touch with our helpline.

Our advice for individuals? Apply direct if you can, and get it sent to you!

Because basic DBS checks are a new development, we have to wait and see how they’re working before we can be confident in the advice we give.

However, given what we know already, and based on our experiences of the service run by Disclosure Scotland, we’re currently advising the following:

Apply for a basic check direct to the DBS, if you can. Why?

This is to protect yourself against the damage that can be done by spent convictions being included on your basic check.

This might not always be possible – it will depend how registered organisations set up their systems, and it might mean that there’s some uncomfortable conversations with the employer who wants you to apply in a certain way


Our advice to employers? Get the check sent to the applicant

Because basic DBS checks are a new development, we have to wait and see how they’re working before we can be confident in the advice we give.

However, given what we know already, and based on our experiences of the service run by Disclosure Scotland, we’re currently advising the following:

For roles where you carry out basic criminal record checks, ask the applicant to get the check sent to them. Why? 

  1. It protects against any mistakes that are made when determining what convictions are included on the applicant’s basic check.
  2. It is consistent with ban the box as it enables the applicant to disclose their official criminal record to you alongside other relevant information that will help you in your assessment.



Frequently asked questions

Some of the more common questions that we receive on basic checks will be listed below, although there are lots of questions that we don’t know the answer to yet. Some of these are also listed below. If you have a question about the introduction of basic checks by the DBS that is not answered below, please email us.

We’re still waiting for confirmation of when the service that will enable individuals to apply directly will be launched, but we expect it to be at some point in January 2018.
You can raise a dispute through your online account with the DBS or the DBS has a disputes process which can be done over the phone.

Ask the advice of (or share experiences with) others

We have a specific section on our online forum about basic DBS checks. Here you can ask for the advice of others, and share your own experiences.

Our information

Because of the transition period between Disclosure Scotland and the DBS, our existing information about basic checks remains accurate. Over the coming months, we’ll be updating it to reflect the changes explained on this page, but in the meantime, this page provides the most up-to-date information on basic checks.

Useful resources

The DBS has published guidance and policies on basic checks. These are available here.


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