Criminal record checks
You may need to have a criminal record check if you are applying for certain jobs. This section explains what these checks are. It explains how you can find out what information is held about you, and what to do if you are unhappy with the information on your certificate. This section may help you if you’re applying for a job where you need a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificate. This section is for people who have experienced mental illness and their carers, family and friends.
If you would like more advice or information you can contact our Advice and Information Service by clicking here.
- Employers will ask for a DBS certificate if you are applying for a job that involves regular work with children or vulnerable adults.
- Certificates include information about your contact with the criminal justice system, such as the police, courts or prison. They might also include other information that the police think your potential employer needs to know. This could include information about your mental health.
- The police might know about your mental health if you have had contact with them. For example, if the police moved you to a place of safety because of your mental health, under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
- The police must use guidelines to decide what information they put on your certificate.
- You can find out what information is held about you by making a Subject Access Request to your local police force.
- You can challenge the information that is on your DBS certificate. In some cases the police may ask for your views about the information before they give it to a potential employer.
What are Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks?
Employers can ask for a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check if you are applying for a job that would involve a ‘regulated activity’. ‘Regulated activity’ means work with vulnerable groups, such as children or the elderly.
‘Regulated activity with children’ means having close unsupervised contact with children. This includes work in:
- healthcare settings like hospitals, or
It doesn’t include work by volunteers who are under the close supervision of someone else. If volunteers do need a DBS check, this is free of charge.
Regulated activity with vulnerable adults can involve the following things.
- Working in healthcare and personal care.
- Being a social worker.
- Helping with household tasks, like shopping and paying bills.
- Being involved in a person’s affairs. For example, helping someone with their money or making decisions. This could include being a mental health advocate or Independent Mental Capacity Advocate.
- Transporting an adult, due to their age, illness, or disability, to another place to get health or social care. This doesn’t include family, friends, or taxi drivers.
There are 5 types of checks.
- Basic – an employer can ask for a Basic DBS for any position or purpose. A basic certificate will contain details of convictions and cautions from the Police National Computer (PNC) that are considered to be unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974. They cost £23.
- Standard – an employer can ask for a standard DBS check if the position you are applying for involves duties, positions and licences included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. For example, court officers, employment within a prison, and Security Industry Authority (SIA). The certificate contains details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings from the Police National Computer (PNC) which have not been filtered in line with legislation. They cost £23.
- Enhanced – The enhanced check is available for specific duties, positions and licences included in both the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions Order 1975) and the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) regulations. For example, regularly caring for, training, supervising or being solely in charge of children, specified activities with adults in receipt of health care or social care services and applicants for gaming and lottery licences. An enhanced level certificate contains the same PNC information as the standard level certificate but also includes a check of information held by police forces. They cost £40.
- Enhanced with list check – this is the same as an enhanced check, but it also looks at whether you are on the ‘barred list’ of people that can’t do work that involves regulated activity. An employer can only ask for this check for certain jobs. Such as perspective adoptive parents, taxi and private hire vehicle drivers. The DBS has a legal duty to consider any information that suggests you may pose a risk of harm. They cost £40.
- DBS adult first check - DBS adult first is a service available to organisations who can request a check of the DBS adults’ barred list. Depending on the result, a person can be permitted to start work, under supervision, with vulnerable adults before a DBS certificate has been obtained. The following criteria must be met for one of these checks:
- the position must require a criminal record check by law,
- the position must be eligible for access to the DBS adults’ barred list, and
- the organisation must have requested a check of the DBS adults’ barred list on the DBS application form.
These checks cost £6.
Who issues DBS certificates?
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) issues certificates. They replaced the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) in 2012.
Who sees the certificate?
The DBS will only send a copy of the certificate to you. They won’t send one to your potential employer. So, you will have the chance to question any information that you don’t think should be in there. You can do this before your potential employer sees the certificate.
Your potential employer must ask you to see a copy of your DBS certificate.
Information on the certificate is sensitive, so your potential employer must follow strict guidelines when handling this information. It must be stored securely. Only people involved in the recruitment process who need to see this information should be allowed to see it.
What information is included on a DBS certificate?
The DBS certificate will contain details of any:
- cautions, including conditional cautions,
- reprimands, and
- final warnings that you have been given.
‘Convictions’ means any criminal offences you have admitted to or been found guilty of. Cautions, reprimands and final warnings are warnings the police give you when they think you have broken the law.
The employer can also check if you are on the DBS barred lists. People on these lists are deemed unfit to work with children or vulnerable adults. You would usually only be on the DBS barred list if:
- you have committed a very serious crime, and
- you have worked, are working, or might work in the future, in a regulated activity.
In some cases, you can challenge the DBS’ decision to put you on a barred list.
An enhanced DBS certificate may contain extra information about your contact with the police. They will check whether they have any other information about you that may be relevant. The Chief Officer at your local police force is responsible for this check, but they can ask someone else to carry it out for them.
An enhanced DBS certificate could include information about any contact with the police that isn’t to do with convictions, cautions, reprimands or final warnings. For example, if the police were involved in taking you to a place of safety under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. This would be because of concerns about your mental health. The police should only include this information on your certificate if they believe that it is relevant.
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 makes sure the police use a very detailed test before deciding to put information on enhanced DBS certificates. If the police decide to put information of your certificate, this is known as disclosing information. There is further details below about how the police decide what information to include.
How do the police decide what information to include in an enhanced DBS check?
Police should only include information if they reasonably believe it to be relevant.
There is guidance to help the police with their decision-making. This is called the Home Office Statutory Disclosure Guidance.
The Statutory Disclosure Guidance says that there are 8 rules that Chief Police Officers need to follow. The rules apply when they decide what information should be provided in an enhanced DBS check. The main points of the guidance are below.
- Each piece of information should be assessed separately. Information shouldn’t be automatically included, or left off, a DBS certificate, just because it is a certain type of information. For example, the Chief Police Officer shouldn’t include all information about your mental health, just because they assume this information is more important than other types of information.
- The Chief Police Officer should only include information if they reasonably believe it to be relevant. To decide if it is relevant, they need to consider the following things.
- If the information is important to the position you are applying for. For example, what may be relevant to a job application for nursing may not be relevant if the application is for a school cleaner.
- If the information is serious enough to be included. For example, it wouldn’t be reasonable to include information about something small or unimportant. Unless that thing is very relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- If the information is about something that has happened quite often. For example, a one-off allegation of aggressive behaviour might be less relevant than if there have been lots of allegations against you.
- How old the information is, and how you have behaved since.
- If the information is from a reliable person.
- The Chief Police Officer needs to balance the effect of disclosing this information about your private life with importance of the reason for disclosing the information.
- The police might be investigating you, but you don’t know about it. If this is the case, the Chief Police Officer would need to think about how to handle this situation.
- In some cases, you may get the chance to share your views with the police before your certificate is given to you. This could happen if there is additional information that the police are thinking about including on your certificate.
The police should keep a clear record of how, and why, they made their decisions.
Is health information included?
The police shouldn’t usually disclose information about your physical or mental health. But sometimes it may be appropriate.
The Quality Assurance Framework includes guidance about when it’s appropriate to disclose information about your mental health. This guidance adds to the rules in the Statutory Disclosure Guidance.
The guidance says that, when deciding whether to disclose mental health information, the police should remember the following things.
- There are many different categories of mental illness. They shouldn’t generalise.
- They aren’t mental health experts and shouldn’t be expected to be mental health experts.
- Experiencing mental illness isn’t a crime. Only other factors can make mental health information relevant.
- Anyone experiencing mental illness can recover or manage their condition.
There are lots of questions in the guidance to help the police decide whether mental health information may be relevant. These questions are below.
- Can you act responsibly?
- Has your behaviour put you, or others, at risk of harm?
- Does your medication, or not taking your medication, significantly affect your behaviour?
- Is your judgement affected?
- How old is this information?
- How is your current state of health?
- How would disclosing information about your mental health affect you?
- Could getting your views on this information reduce the possible impact on your health, or change the police’s decision to disclose?
The police need to work out whether any risk to vulnerable adults or children outweighs your right to respect for your private life. If the police do interfere with this right, they must be able to show that it was necessary.
If mental health information is included on your DBS certificate without good reason, then you can challenge this information. Further details are below on how you can do this.
You might think that:
- police will include information on your DBS certificate about your mental health, and
- it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for.
You might have been detained by the police under section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act, for example.
You can contact the relevant police force and ask them to not include this information on your DBS certificate. And explain the reasons why. This will make the police think more carefully about whether they should disclose the information. They have to consider the points that we’ve explained above.
How could mental health information be worded on my certificate?
If the police decide to disclose information about your mental health, they should be very careful about how they word this on your certificate. Their statement should:
- be clear and short,
- not leave the reader with any unanswered questions, and
- not include aspects of your illness, or characteristics of your behaviour while you were ill, that aren’t relevant or fair.
You can find more information about:
How can I find out what information is held about me?
You can find out what information the police hold about you by making a Subject Access Request under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
A Subject Access Request lets you see information that is held about you.You need to contact the police force that holds the information about you. Say you are making a Subject Access Request.
You should get a reply from the police within 40 days.
You can read more about making Subject Access Requests here:
You can also find out what information is held about you by the HM Courts Service, HM Prison Service, and The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). You can do this by contacting the organisation directly. You can challenge information on your DBS certificate that relates to contact with the courts or prison by contacting the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
How can I challenge the information put on a DBS certificate?
You can contact the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) if there is incorrect information on your DBS certificate. You can ask for the information to be looked at again under their appeals and disputes process. You can find contact details for the DBS in the Useful Contacts section at the bottom of this page.
You can only start the appeals and disputes process after you receive your DBS certificate. But sometimes the police ask you if you would like to give your views on your certificate before you receive it. This is called making representations and is explained later in this section.
There are two types of disputes.
- Data entry dispute – if personal information is incorrect. For example, your name, address, or date of birth.
- Data source dispute – when you think criminal record information is wrong or irrelevant.
You can get more information on the following link if you want to dispute information on your DBS:
You can also contact DBS. Their details are in the Useful Contacts section at the bottom of this page.
The DBS won’t tell your potential employer that you are disputing your certificate. They will work with the police to decide about your dispute.
If you don’t agree with information on an enhanced certificate, you might find the police don’t think there is a mistake. If this happens the Independent Monitor will look at the dispute. You can find contact details for the Independent Monitor in the Useful Contacts section at the bottom of this page.
If the Independent Monitor agrees with you, the police will create a new certificate with the information removed or changed.
If you disagree with the Independent Monitor’s decision you can think about getting legal advice.
You can find more information about ‘Legal advice’ by clicking here.
In some cases, the police may contact you before your check is completed. This is to give you the option of putting forward your views about your DBS application. This may happen if:
- it is possible that the information they are thinking of disclosing is wrong, unreliable, out of date. Or where the outcome of their investigations is unknown,
- you didn’t know the police had this information, and you have never had a chance to challenge it, or
- you have already challenged the information.
In this case the police will contact you to ask if you want to disagree with the information. You will usually need to do this in writing. You could ask someone else, like a healthcare professional, to put forward views for you. If the information you disagree with is about your mental health, they could explain what care and treatment you are getting.
I think an employer has discriminated against me because of information on my DBS certificate. What can I do?
You might think an employer has discriminated against you because of information about your mental health on a DBS certificate.
Think about if:
- reason the employer has given for their decision,
- the employer has said that their decision is because of risk associated with the information on your DBS certificate, and
- their decision is simply because you have a mental illness, and nothing else.
If you think you’ve been discriminated against because of your mental illness you can get free advice from the Equality Advisory and Support Service. You can find their details in the Useful Contacts section at the bottom of this page.
You can find more information about ‘Discrimination and Mental Health’ by clicking here.
Validity & update
How long is a DBS certificate valid for?
A DBS certificate has no official expiry date. The information that is on the certificate is relevant and correct at the time of printing.
You might need to apply for another certificate if you stay in the same job for a long time. Your employer will ask you for an updated certificate if needed.
You may need to apply for a new certificate if you move to another job that asks for a DBS check.
What is the DBS Update Service?
The update service is an online service that makes it easier for you to keep your DBS certificate up to date.
You need to register to use the update service. This costs £13 a year, unless you’re a volunteer. You can apply to join the update service before you ask for a DBS check. Or you can do this up to 30 days after your certificate is issued.
The update service allows you to take your certificate from one job to the next, unless:
- your employer asks you for a new certificate,
- you need a certificate for a different type of ‘workforce.’ For example, you have an ‘adult workforce’ certificate and need a ‘child workforce’ certificate, or
- you apply for a job that needs a different type of certificate from the one you have.
This can be helpful if you change job a lot. For example, if you work through an agency.
An employer can do a ‘status check’ via the update service. This means they can see if any relevant information about you has been added since your DBS certificate was issued. An employer can’t do this without asking you first. You can say no. You can use the service to check who has carried out a status check on your account.
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
The DBS helps employers in England and Wales to make safer recruitment decisions. You can contact them to track your application. Or if you think the information on your certificate is wrong.
Telephone: 0300 0200 190. (Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm.).
The DBS has a confidential checking process for transgender applicants who don’t want to reveal details of their previous identity to a potential employer.
The Home Office
The Home Office oversees the work of the police and has produced publications relating to the Disclosure and Barring Service and the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
The Independent Monitor
The Independent Monitor looks at cases where someone is not happy with information that’s been put on their enhanced DBS certificate.
Address: Independent Monitor, Safeguarding and Public Protection Unit, Home Office, 4th Floor Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF
Nacro is a large charity for ex-offenders. They give information and advice on topics like disclosure. They have a Resettlement Advice Service. They also have local services in some areas. You can search for a local service on their website.
Unlock: For people with convictions
Unlock is an independent charity and membership organisation that runs a helpline. The helpline is led by reformed offenders. Unlock also has an online forum and Webchat available on their website.
Telephone: 01634 247350 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm)
Text or WhatsApp: 07824113848
Email: They have an online contact form on their website.
Post: the Helpline, Unlock, Maidstone Community Support Centre, 39-48 Marsham Street, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1HH.
Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS)
This organisation gives practical advice and information about the Equality Act 2010 and discrimination.
Telephone: 0808 800 0082 (Monday to Friday: 9am to 7pm, Saturday 10am to 2pm)
Address: FREEPOST EASS HELPLINE FPN6521