The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

DBS and Covid-19 update: As a result of the pandemic, DBS has made some temporary changes to the ID checking guidelines for standard and enhanced checks - and basic checks, when submitted through a Responsible Organisation. See our Covid-19 guidance for more information.

In June 2010, the government announced that it would put the proposed Vetting & Barring Scheme (VBS) for England, Northern Ireland and Wales on hold and undertake a review of both the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).


The review made recommendations to change the criminal records and barring systems to balance the need to deliver effective safeguarding arrangements with protecting and respecting individuals’ freedoms.

Subsequently, the law was changed through the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, and a series of changes, which began rolling out in September 2012, were completed by the end of 2014.

A new organisation called the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has been formed by merging the CRB and the ISA. This new organisation provides one service combining the criminal records checking and barring functions.

What else has changed?

  1. There is a new definition of regulated activity (see below) which changes who could or should have an enhanced disclosure check and/or barring check
  2. The legislation repeals previous definitions of regulated activity
  3. It removes the need for registration and continuous monitoring (of individuals on a database) – the controversial planned ‘Vetting and Barring Scheme’
  4. The minimum age at which someone can apply for a DBS check is now 16 years old
  5. There is a more rigorous ‘relevancy’ test for when the police release information held locally on an enhanced disclosure check

What has not changed?

  1. You must make appropriate referrals about individuals you have concerns about to the DBS
  2. You must not engage in regulated activity someone whom you know has been barred
  3. Everybody within the pre-September definition of regulated activity will remain eligible for enhanced disclosure checks, whether or not they fall within the post-September definition of regulated activity

On 17 June 2013 DBS launched a new service called the Update Service which provides portability for an individual’s DBS check, removing the need for multiple checks to be made by different organisations.

For an annual fee of £13 or free for volunteers, individuals can chose to subscribe to the Update Service. This means their DBS disclosure will be kept up to date so that they can take it with them from role to role within the same workforce (ie children workforce, adult workforce or both). As a result 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 their employer 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.

How might these changes affect my group?

Regulated activity is work that a barred person must not do. A group or organisation which knowingly allows a barred person to work in regulated activity will be breaking the law.

From 10 September 2012 if you consider a role, voluntary or paid, to fall within the new definition of regulated activity, the individual will need a DBS check and a barred list check.

The full definition of regulated activity with children and adults can be viewed and downloaded at the .gov website.

If you remove someone from an activity because they harmed or posed a risk of harm, you are required by law to inform the DBS and are strongly advised to inform the police.

Might the activities we currently do now fall outside of the new boundaries of regulated activity?

Yes, this is quite possible – the new definition of regulated activity is a scaled back version which focuses on work that involves close, regular and unsupervised contact with vulnerable groups including children (note, there will no longer be a label of ‘vulnerable’ adults). The Protection of Freedoms Act has removed from regulated activity, broadly, supervised work such as instructing or looking after children, which, if unsupervised, would be regulated activity.

There is guidance from the DBS on what ‘supervised’ means in this context on the .gov website.

Regulated activity will continue to exclude family arrangements and personal, non-commercial arrangements.

Regulated activity at a glance

Regulated activity relating to children now comprises:

  1. Unsupervised activities: teach, train, instruct, care for or supervise children, or provide advice/guidance on well-being, or drive a vehicle only for children
  2. Work for a limited range of establishments (‘specified places’), with opportunity for contact: for example, schools, children’s homes, childcare premises. Not work by supervised volunteers

    Work under (i) or (ii) is regulated activity only if done regularly

  3. Relevant personal care, for example washing or dressing; or health care by or supervised by a professional
  4. Registered childminding; and foster carers

Regulated activity relating to adults comprises:

  1. Providing health care
  2. Providing personal care including washing, dressing or helping with eating and drinking
  3. Providing social work
  4. Assistance with cash, bills or shopping
  5. Assistance with personal affairs for example those with power of attorney
  6. Conveying – transporting somebody to receive health care, personal care or social care (this will not include family, friends or taxi drivers)

The Making Music DBS scheme

Making Music will continue to offer its disclosure checking service to member and non member organisations in England and Wales who are engaging people to work with vulnerable groups including children in voluntary or paid roles.

For full information on this service, please see our guidance on DBS (formerly CRB) checks via Making Music. How to get DBS checks via Making Music

Further information

If you have a specific question regarding this subject, please contact the Making Music office by calling 020 7939 6030 or emailing

For groups in Scotland, please contact: Disclosure in Scotland or email

For groups in Northern Ireland, please see our guidance here or you can contact: Access NI Direct. Groups will need to find an umbrella body to administer their checks, there is a list of umbrella bodies by geographical area

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.