If you are involved in running, or setting up a charity, then we know you’ll want to do all you can to ensure that the people who join your Board, your staff team and volunteers are people you can trust.

This guidance offers you help to understand just one aspect of how you can do that – by using the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) when it’s relevant to check someone’s criminal background. This guide aims to explain when and how you can ask for people to have DBS checks for a position with your charity or voluntary group, and help you to understand when you should report information to them as well.

It’s important to emphasise that getting DBS checks is only one of the ways you can make sure your organisation is practicing safe recruitment and management of people. There are lots of other practical things you can do to make your organisation as safe as possible for children, young people, vulnerable adults, as well as your staff and volunteers – and you can find plenty of resources, online training, videos and podcasts to help you at nspcc.org.uk/vcs and knowhow.ncvo.org.uk/safeguarding.

The Disclosure & Barring Service was set up by Government in 2012. It helps employers make safer recruitment decisions by processing and issuing criminal background checks on new or existing staff or volunteers.

There are some roles that should be DBS-checked, especially those where an adult in is regular lone contact with children, for example. But not every position or organisation will need to be DBS checked, and it’s important not to be too suspicious or overzealous in using checks for people and positions that don’t really warrant them. So your organisation will have to decide whether and when it’s necessary to call for DBS checks within your organisation – that’s why we’ve called this guide ‘Our Decision’.

Whilst many groups and organisations will welcome the opportunity to make their own decisions about checks, it may feel like rather a daunting process for others. We have included some case examples as exercises to help you think things through on a practical level and identify how your organisation can make the right decisions for you.

The guide includes sections on the background and policy context of changes in relevant legislation and guidance, assessing and managing risk and processes and tools to help organisations adapt to these changes. It also provides links to further resources and is part of a wider range of support for safeguarding and governance provided by the Disclosure and Barring Service itself, and by Children England and NSPCC as part of the Social Sector Safeguarding Partnership, led by NCVO.

Download Our Decision (2019)