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Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are more commonly known as police checks. All foster carers have one but what exactly are they?

Formerly called a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check it will show if prospective foster carers and approved foster carers have any criminal convictions that would make him or her unsuitable as a carer. All members of the household aged 18 and over have to be checked.

The DBS is a government department with links to the Police National Computer. The aim of a DBS check is to allow organisations to safely recruit by identifying candidates who may not be suitable for certain work, especially that involving children or vulnerable adults.

There are three types of criminal record check:

  • Standard: this checks for convictions (spent and unspent), cautions, reprimands and final warnings.
  • Enhanced: This is the same as the standard check plus any additional information held by the police that is relevant to the role the person is applying for.
  • Enhanced with barred list checks. It is like the enhanced check, but includes a check of the DBS barred list (adult and/or children) – that is a list of individuals who are unsuitable to work with children and/or adults because of past convictions. This is the highest level of check and the one foster carers have.

There are slightly different rules for criminal record checks in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and for applicants who have lived overseas or are foreign nationals.

It is illegal for anyone barred by the DBS to work, or apply to work with the sector (children or adults) from which they are barred. It is also illegal for an employer to knowingly employ a barred person in the sector from which they are barred. However, someone who has been cautioned or convicted of an offence as long as it is not of a sexual or violent nature will not automatically be prevented from fostering.

I hope this unravels some of the mystery attached to these checks.

Cathy Glass


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