Basic criminal record checks launched today by the DBS

From today, the 17th January 2018, basic criminal record checks can now be obtained directly from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

This is a significant development for both people with criminal records and employers in England & Wales.

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.

Commenting on the news, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“We cautiously welcome today’s news. A basic check from the DBS is long overdue, and it should help to make the system clearer, ensuring that employers carry out the appropriate levels of checks instead of carrying out standard or enhanced checks which can often be unlawful.

“However, we’re concerned about a number of aspects to the way the DBS plan to operate basic checks, including allowing them to be sent directly to an employer. This runs the risk of employers being sent information that they’re not entitled to see, and is why this practice was reversed in 2012 for standard and enhanced checks. We’ve raised these concerns with both the DBS and the Home Office, but for the time being we’re advising any individual that thinks they have a spent conviction to make sure they apply for a basic check directly from the DBS and get it sent to their home address.”

On a practical level, we’ve developed a landing page dedicated to basic DBS checks 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, covering things like:

  1. How to get a basic check
  2. Should the check be sent to the applicant or the employer?
  3. What are eCertificates & eResults?
  4. Our advice for individuals
  5. Our advice to employers

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.

For more information, and the latest details, visit our information page on basic DBS checks.


Written by Christopher Stacey

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