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Busting the myths around the DBS check

As most people working within the care industry will know, all staff in care homes, hospitals and working as care providers in someone else’s home are subject to a DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) check. Employers can encounter staffing problems if DBS checks aren’t done quickly and efficiently. Here, Care & Nursing Essentials editor Victoria Galligan busts some of the myths regarding DBS checks and explores what a DBS check actually is, who needs one and how to avoid costly delays when applying…

There is only one level of DBS check for care workers

Yes – for general employees in England and Wales there are three levels of DBS check - Basic, Standard and Enhanced. However, an Enhanced with DBS Barred List check is required for all staff carrying out “regulated activity” who work with vulnerable adults who fall into the definition of adults set out in section 59 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006  (before it was amended by the PoFA).

Not all elderly people are classed as vulnerable adults

True – but those requiring care are. The DBS clarify what a vulnerable adult is on their website, and the term ‘vulnerable adult’ was amended after it was felt to be inappropriate to label an adult as vulnerable solely due to their circumstances, age or disability. It states that, in general terms, a person aged 18 or over is classed as vulnerable when they are receiving one of the following services: DBS check - a job application form

  • Health care;

  • Relevant personal care;

  • Social care work;

  • Assistance in relation to general household matters by reason of age, illness or disability;

  • Relevant assistance in the conduct of their own affairs; or

  • Conveying (transportation due to age, illness or disability in certain circumstances)

All care work is classed as regulated activity

True. Regulated activity – which a barred person is prohibited from doing – is clarified by the Department of Health document Regulated Activity (Adults) and there are six categories within the new definition of regulated activity which are listed above.

There are similar rules concerning care employees working with children and the government document Regulated Activity in Relation to Children: Scope clarifies what is considered regulated activity which a barred person must not do. This is important to check, as regulated activity does not cover certain activity if it is supervised by another adult. But generally, all forms of health care relating to physical or mental health – including palliative care and procedures similar to medical or surgical care, advice or guidance provided for children relating to their physical, emotional or educational well-being and personal care cannot be carried out by someone on the barred list.

If someone only works with vulnerable adults occasionally, it’s not regulated activity

False: the Department of Health states: “There is no longer a requirement for a person to carry out the activities a certain number of times before they are engaging in regulated activity. Any time a person engages in the activities [listed above], they are engaging in regulated activity.”

Staff such as porters and cleaners don’t need a DBS check

It depends – any member of staff who carries out regulated activity with vulnerable adults needs an Enhanced DBS check. The DBS checking service check.co.uk clarifies: “This includes porters who transport patients around a hospital, as ‘conveying’ those who are receiving healthcare is listed as part of the definition of regulated activity.”

However, people working for care homes who have access to care facilities but do not carry out a regulated activity – in roles such as food, cleaning, office work or maintenance – will likely be eligible for a Standard DBS check.

Volunteers don’t need a DBS check 

Wrong – volunteers are under the same rules as paid workers but they can apply for a DBS check free of charge. The DBS checking service CRBS says of Enhanced DBS checks: “This level of check is only available to request on behalf of applicants who are working or volunteering in certain roles. For Enhanced DBS checks, this typically includes those interacting with children or vulnerable adults.”

Employers have to pay for staff members’ DBS checks

Not necessarily – it’s up to the employer whether or not to foot the bill. One DBS advisory service, clear check.co.uk. states: “There is no law which states that employers should be the ones who cover the cost of having a DBS check done, it’s just good practice for the employer to shoulder the cost. Not all employers take this approach though, and some may ask employees to stump up the cash themselves. For people who move jobs regularly of have more than one employer might then find themselves quite out of pocket, so if applying for a job which requires DBS checks it is worth enquiring about the process at the interview stage.”

The answer to this may be to take out an Enhanced with DBS Barred List check, which costs £44, and pay the extra £13 to be added to the Update Service. This £13 is a yearly fee which will allow the applicant to make changes, and for the employer to make a status check of the certificate to see if changes have been made.

And remember, with NHS staff complaining in the media recently that they are having to pay their own fees in some roles, employers have the opportunity to show how much the employee is valued by covering the cost.

Employees can transfer their DBS check from job to job

Possibly. If employees opt to be added to the Update Service, a new DBS check is not necessarily required for each place they work in – it’s up to the new employer. The Update Service website says employees will only need a new DBS check if:

  • an employer asks them to get a new certificate
  • they need a certificate for a different type of ‘workforce’ (for example, they have an ‘adult workforce’ certificate and need a ‘child workforce’ certificate)
  • they need a different level certificate (for example, they have a standard DBS certificate and need an enhanced one)

Employees can process a DBS check themselves

Not for an Enhanced or Standard DBS check – they can only be done via the employer, who must use an “umbrella body” company to process the applications. They umbrella body can help avoid mistakes and omissions and generally speed up the time taken from application to receipt of the DBS certificate. And remember checks should be done on a regular basis to ensure they are still current – another reason to opt for the Update Service which will list new criminal convictions.

The Government advise that if the employer does:

Employees can, however, apply for their own Basic DBS check, which costs £25 but does not cover roles which involve regulated activity.

See gov.uk to find an umbrella body to process every DBS check your care facility needs.