Safeguarding in the charity sector: reducing risk with DBS checks

DBS checks play an important role in ensuring robust safeguarding procedures. Sarah Thompson, business development manager at uCheck, explores the different types of different DBS checks and how charities can reduce risk.

As most organisations will no doubt be aware, safeguarding in the charity industry is of paramount importance. Charities have a duty of care to those they work with, and protecting beneficiaries should always be a top priority.

DBS checks are a vital piece of the safeguarding puzzle. We’ve put together the following guide to help charities reduce the risk of harm to the vulnerable people their staff and volunteers come into contact with.

Safeguarding in the charity industry: what sort of checks are available?

Charities should have robust safeguarding policies and procedures in place when it comes to recruitment, and DBS checks should form part of this.

A DBS check is one tool available to employers when developing safeguarding policies and will not be necessary for every role. DBS checks do not replace the need for good management, monitoring and training.

Whether or not an employee or volunteer is eligible for a DBS check will depend on their role and responsibilities, and the nature of the charity. Before carrying out a DBS check employers should be clear about the purpose of the check and whether the DBS process will help achieve this purpose.

Enhanced DBS checks

Trustees of charities that work with children or vulnerable adults will usually be eligible for an enhanced DBS check, as will employees or volunteers who regularly come into contact with children or vulnerable adults.

An enhanced DBS check is the highest level of DBS check available, and will show details of any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings the applicant has, as well as any relevant information held by local police.

Standard DBS checks

To be eligible for a standard DBS check, a role must be listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. This includes solicitors, barristers and accountants, among others.

A standard DBS check will show details of any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings the applicant has.

Basic DBS checks

If employees or volunteers aren’t eligible for an enhanced or standard DBS check, organisations can apply for a basic DBS check on their behalf.

Basic DBS checks are available for all employees and volunteers, and give charities extra peace of mind about who they’re hiring – as well as showing that they’re committed to safeguarding.

A basic DBS check will show details of any convictions and conditional cautions that are considered unspent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974.

For more detailed information about DBS check eligibility, take a look at the government’s guidance.

Checking against the barred lists

If someone is eligible for an enhanced DBS check, they may also be eligible for a check of the children’s and/or adults’ barred list.

If an employee or volunteer engages in regulated activity with children and/or vulnerable adults, they’ll be eligible for a check of the relevant barred list. It’s an offence to employ somebody in a role which involves regulated activity with a vulnerable group they’ve been banned from working with.

The definition of regulated activity varies between adults and children. In summary, a person will be engaging in regulated activity with adults if they:

  • Are a regulated healthcare professional providing healthcare to an adult, or directing or supervising the provision of healthcare to an adult.
  • Provide personal care for adults involving hands-on physical assistance with washing and dressing, eating, drinking or toileting; prompt or supervise an adult with any of these tasks because of their age, illness or disability; or teach someone to do any of these tasks.
  • Are a social care worker providing social work to an adult, which is required in connection with any health services or social services.
  • Assist an adult with their cash, bills or shopping because of their age, illness or disability, arranged via a third party.
  • Assist in the conduct of an adult’s own affairs under a formal appointment.
  • Convey adults for reasons of age, illness or disability to, from or between places where they receive healthcare, personal care or social work, arranged via a third party.

A person will be engaging in regulated activity with children if they do one or more of the following:

  • Are responsible, on a regular basis in a school or college, for teaching, training instructing, caring for or supervising children.
  • Carry out paid, or unsupervised unpaid, work regularly in a school or college where the work provides an opportunity for contact with children.
  • Engage in intimate or personal care or overnight activity, even if this happens only once.

A full description of the scope of regulated activity is available for adults and for children.

Safeguarding in the charity sector: avoiding risk

Carrying out pre-employment checks can help charities proactively promote the welfare and safety of their beneficiaries, and can reduce the risk that they’ll come to harm.

Failing to carry out the appropriate checks where necessary could result in significant repercussions for the organisation if an incident occurs.

Find out more about ACEVO’s DBS service. And for more information on safeguarding in the charity sector, see the Charity Commission’s guidance.

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

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