This resource is about using Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks in England and Wales as part of safeguarding when working with people and groups at risk, such as children or vulnerable adults.
For broader information on the topic of safeguarding children, see our guidance covering the main principles and your responsibilities.
- What is a DBS check?
- When can you ask for a DBS check?
- Who in my group should have a DBS check?
- What do I need to carry out a DBS check?
- How often should I renew a DBS check?
- Can I accept a DBS check carried out by another organisation?
- How can I check someone’s DBS status?
- What checks can I get through Making Music?
What is a DBS check?
A DBS check is a check on someone’s criminal record to help you decide if they are an appropriate person to carry out certain activities. You may need to use them for people currently involved with your music group, or when recruiting new people, be they committee members, group volunteers, employees, or freelancers.
DBS checks may be necessary in many different situations. There are four types of DBS check:
- basic check
- standard check
- enhanced check
- enhanced check with barred lists
It is important to note that checks can only reveal information that is available and is not an indication of undiscovered offences or offences that might be committed in the future. The result of a DBS check should be only one element in your safeguarding decisions.
When can you ask for a DBS check?
You can only ask for a DBS check in certain circumstances. There are also rules about what level of check you can ask for. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 sets out what can be asked and what has to be declared about criminal convictions in a recruitment process.
There are two categories of conviction:
- Unspent - the conviction has not expired, and that person should declare it if they are asked. But do not have to if they are not asked.
- Spent - the conviction has expired and no longer needs to be declared.
When recruiting for any paid or voluntary role you can ask about unspent convictions.
Spent convictions are generally ‘protected’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means you should not ask, and they do not need to be disclosed. If they are disclosed, they cannot be taken into account in decision making. However, there are categories of work that are exempt from these ‘protected’ conditions – which means you are allowed to ask about spent convictions.
The four levels of DBS check relate to what you are allowed to ask, and need to know to make informed decisions:
- basic check - shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions – these are convictions that have not reached their expiry date and are current on someone’s criminal record
- standard check - shows spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings – this includes details of both current (unspent) convictions, and expired (spent) convictions which are regarded as having been removed from the criminal record
- enhanced check - shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role
- enhanced check with barred lists - shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether the applicant is on the list of people barred from doing the role
For safeguarding purposes, the enhanced and enhanced with barred list are the relevant levels of check. The Basic and Standard checks do not check a person’s record to a high enough level to make informed decisions about safeguarding.
Enhanced check with barred lists – regulated activity
The categories of work that are exempt from ‘protected’ are about undertaking what is called ‘regulated’ activity.
If you are recruiting for roles (paid or voluntary) that include regulated activity:
- You can ask about spent convictions.
- You should carry out an Enhanced DBS check with the barred list.
- You should get a DBS check before appointing them, and you must make it clear to any candidates that you will request a DBS check.
Equally if people already in your group are going to start carrying out regulated activity you should carry out a DBS check before they do.
Regulated activity relating to children (defined as those under the age of 18)
There are two main things to consider: the nature or type of the activity and the frequency of the activity.
The following activity only has to be carried out once for it to be considered regulated:
- Providing personal care – such as help with washing and dressing.
The following activities must be carried out on more than 3 days on a 30-day period to be considered regulated:
- Providing teaching, training, or instructing children
- Providing any form of advice or guidance for children relating to their physical, emotional, or educational well-being
- Moderating a web service wholly or mainly for children
- Driving a vehicle for children
There are aspects of regulated activity that we don’t think will be relevant to our member groups, such as being a foster carer or registering as a childcare provider.
Supervision: there is a supervision exemption for providing teaching, training, or instructing children. If the person carrying out the activity is supervised by someone else then that person would not be considered to be engaging in regulated activity. But the person doing the supervision would be classed as carrying out regulated activity and would therefore require an Enhanced check with barred list.
Regulated activity relating to adults includes:
- providing health care
- providing personal care including washing, dressing or helping with eating and drinking
- providing social work
- assistance with cash, bills or shopping
- assistance with personal affairs, for example those with power of attorney
- conveying – transporting somebody to receive health care, personal care or social care (this will not include family, friends or taxi drivers)
Enhanced check without barred list
Some activities are not classed as regulated but you should still ask for a DBS check – but the level you can ask for is Enhanced check without the barred list. This is about types of activity as regulated activity - but done less frequently (i.e. less than 3 days in a 30 day period). For example, if your Music Director is providing unsupervised teaching or training once a month.
- Can ask about spent convictions.
- Should carry out an Enhanced DBS check without the barred list.
- Should get a DBS check before appointing them, and you must make it clear to any candidates that you will request a DBS check.
Who in my group should have a DBS check?
Activity relating to children
We have listed the most common scenarios for members groups below. But it is important to remember that anyone carrying out regulated activity requires a DBS check. If you are unsure if you need a check, or what level to get use the DBS eligibility checker or get in touch.
|Type of activity
|Level of check
|Providing teaching, training, or instructing children*
More than 3 days in a 30-day period
|Enhanced check with barred lists
|Providing teaching, training, or instructing children
|Less than 3 days in a 30-day period
|Enhanced check without barred lists
|Driving a vehicle for children
|More than 3 days in a 30-day period
|Enhanced check with barred lists
|Driving a vehicle for children
|Less than 3 days in a 30-day period
|Enhanced check without barred lists
*Supervision: if the person carrying out this activity will always be supervised then they would just need an Enhanced check without barred list. But the person doing the supervision would need an Enhanced check with barred list. Unless you can be sure that the person carrying out the activity will always be supervised, they should get an Enhanced check with barred list if done more than 3 days in a 30 day period.
Any member, contractor, volunteer or employee carrying out activity as set above will need the relevant check. For Making Music members this normally means:
- Music Directors
- Section leaders /group tutors
- One to one tutor
Safeguarding Officer: if you have appointed someone to be the lead on safeguarding in your group and they are carrying out activity as above, then they should have the relevant check. Otherwise, they should have a basic check.
Regulated activity relating to adults
If you have adults at risk in your group, you are unlikely to need a DBS check, as regulated activity for adults only covers caring duties and does not include training, supervising or being in charge of them.
Occasional Regulated activity
For groups that carry out only very occasional activities involving young people (e.g a one day workshop), you could ask for help from someone else who has already been checked to the relevant level to take responsibility for their supervision. Try asking your members first – some of them may already have a DBS check from their employment, or they may have family or friends who have a DBS check and who would be willing to assist. If no one is forthcoming then you will need to get DBS checks for the relevant people running your activity as set out above.
What do I need to carry out a DBS check?
In order to request a DBS check, someone in your group must be nominated as the verifier. The verifier must:
- Ensure that your group abides by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 when applying for checks. For enhanced checks with barred list checks, the verifier must be able to demonstrate that the position is ’exempt’ from this act, which means they can ask questions about whether an applicant has any criminal history.
- Read and understand the DBS Code of Practice, which ensures that potentially sensitive information is used appropriately. You can download this from [the government website.
- Decide what checks they are obliged to apply for and which they are eligible to make.
- Ensure that your group has a written policy on the recruitment of ex-offenders. DBS have a sample policy and guidance, which is also included in our template Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy.
- Talk to the individual who needs to be checked, ensuring that the verifer:
- makes it clear that having a criminal record will not necessarily be a bar to volunteering or employment
- shows the DBS’s Code of Practice to the applicant
- discusses any convictions with the person applying in order to make a fully informed decision
- assures the person applying about the secure storage and handling of any information.
- Take responsibility for ensuring that the applicant provides the correct documentation as part of the process, and that the verifier sees the original documentation (and not a copy) in person in order to verify the application.
A DBS check has no official expiry date. Any information included will be accurate at the time the check was carried out. It’s up to you to decide when a new check is needed. Best practice is to get them refreshed every 2 to 3 years
Can I accept a DBS check carried out by another organisation?
- Check the applicant’s identity matches the details on the certificate
- Check the certificate is the right level and type for the role applied for
- Check to see if anything has changed if the applicant is signed up for the update service
How can I check someones's DBS status?
One way to check someone’s DBS status is to ask them to show you a copy of their most recent certificate. Remember, a disclosure only reveals information about criminal convictions at the date on which it was issued. It is no indication that offences have not been committed since the certificate was issued; nor that offences will not be committed in the future.
An easier way, if the applicant has signed up for the DBS update service, is to check whether their certificate is up to date online.
The DBS update service
The DBS Update Service provides portability for an individual’s DBS check, removing the need for multiple checks to be made by different organisations.
Paid employees can choose to subscribe to the Update Service for an annual fee of £13, while volunteers can subscribe for free. While they are subscribed, their DBS disclosure will be kept up to date so that they can take it with them between similar roles as follows:
- An existing check for regulated activity with children can be used for another role involving children, but a new check will be needed if the employee now needs a check for working with adults at risk.
- An existing check for regulated activity with adults at risk can be used for another role involving adults, but a new check will be needed if the employee now needs a check for working with children
- An existing check covering both adults at risk and children can be used for any other role working with adults, children or both
This service means that employees and volunteers will no longer have to apply for a new criminal record check each time they apply for a new job. If an individual has subscribed to the Update Service you will be able to go online, with the individual’s consent, and carry out a free, instant check to find out if the information released on the DBS certificate is current and up to date.
Further details about this can be found on the DBS website.
What checks can I get through Making Music?
Making Music acts as an umbrella body for the DBS in England and Wales, which means we are entitled to administer application forms to request an enhanced disclosure check and (where eligible) a barred list check, on behalf of any organisation based in England or Wales.
No. You can only get a DBS check for someone if they are doing the types of activity that require one.
DBS checks will not cover the time someone lived outside the UK. You will need to check the rules in the country they lived in.
You need to use an umbrella body in order to carry out an enhanced check. You can obtain a basic or standard check independently. Making Music is an umbrella body, find out about our DBS servcie.
It is up to you whether you choose to accept a DBS certificate that has been issued by another organisation. The main consideration is the date. Any information included will be accurate at the time the check was carried out. If you are working with someone new you might decide to get your own DBS check, so it is up to date at the time of recruitment.
You can ask the person in question to show you the evidence of their existing DBS certificate. If the person has subscribed to the online update service, you can also check there.
If you wish to have more than one verifier, please email us to request this.
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.