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Deciding which DBS checks to carry out

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You can use the tools and guidance provided by the Disclosure and Barring Service, or get expert advice, to decide which level of check to request for different roles.

Other than the basic level, it’s an offence to knowingly carry out a criminal check if you’re not entitled to. You must take care when working out the appropriate level.

Regulated activity

Certain roles or activities within voluntary organisations are considered ‘regulated’.

Staff and volunteers involved in these activities are eligible for an ‘enhanced with barred list’ check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). It’s best practice to apply for this check, because it’s illegal for an organisation to let someone take part in a regulated activity if they’re barred on the relevant list.

The definition of regulated activity differs for work with adults and work with children.

Regulated activity with adults

Regulated activity with adults includes:

  • providing healthcare (by, or under the direction or supervision of, a regulated healthcare professional)
  • providing personal care (for example, feeding, toileting or washing)
  • conveying (transporting) someone to or from healthcare, personal care or social care services because their age, illness or disability means they can’t take themselves
  • providing social work (by a social worker, to a client or potential client)
  • helping someone with the day-to-day running of their household if they can’t manage themselves because of their age, illness or disability (for example, managing cash, paying bills or doing shopping).

These activities only need to happen once to be considered regulated. The DBS has more information about regulated activity with adults in England.

Regulated activity with children

For an activity with children to be deemed regulated, it depends on:

  • what the activity is
  • how frequently it happens
  • when it happens
  • whether it’s supervised
  • where it happens.

The following only needs to happen once to be deemed as regulated activity.

  • Providing healthcare
  • Providing personal care due to a child’s age, illness or disability

The following become a regulated activity if they happen more than three times in a 30-day period, or once overnight between 02.00 and 06.00 with the opportunity for face-to-face contact.

  • Unsupervised teaching, training or instruction
  • Providing information, advice or guidance on physical, emotional or educational wellbeing

The following becomes a regulated activity if they happen more than three times in a 30-day period.

  • Driving children under arrangement
  • Moderating a web-based service which is wholly or mainly for children
  • Working or volunteering unsupervised with children in specified establishments

If someone doesn’t fulfil the regulated activity criteria because of what they do, they may meet it if they work in one of the following specified establishments.

  • A school, college or other educational institution exclusively or mainly for the provision or full-time education of children
  • A pupil referral unit
  • A nursey
  • A detention centre for children
  • A children’s home or a home provided under the Children Act 1989
  • A children’s centre
  • Relevant childcare premises

They must also meet all of the following criteria.

  • They work there on more than three days in a 30-day period, or overnight between 02.00 and 06.00
  • They have the opportunity to have face-to-face contact with children in the establishment
  • They work there for the purpose of the establishment
  • They’re not doing temporary or occasional work
  • They’re not in a supervised volunteer role

The rules are complex so please read the DBS eligibility guidance (pdf) to check whether you need to carry out an enhanced check with barred lists for each role.

Day-to-day management or supervision of someone carrying out a regulated activity also constitutes as regulated activity. Please refer to the relevant DBS eligibility guidance (for adults or children) to find out whether you should complete an enhanced check with barred lists for each role.


Once you’ve made sure you’re complying with the law, you should also consider what’s proportionate and appropriate for the role or activity’s level of risk.

  • The Charity Commission expects you to complete the highest level of check a role is eligible for. As a minimum, it encourages you to carry out basic checks for anyone who works with children or adults at risk.
  • Whether the role is for a staff member or volunteer isn’t relevant when deciding which check to complete. The decision is based on the results of the risk assessment and the role’s eligibility for the various levels of check.
  • It’s up to your organisation to decide how often you get new checks. The certificate is only accurate up to the day it’s issued. You should set a timeframe that is manageable and proportionate to your level of risk. A three-year period is common.
  • You should keep a list of DBS checks you’ve sought and when. You should get rid of the certificate once a recruitment decision has been made and any disputes have been settled.
  • Standard and enhanced checks can be registered with an online subscription to the update service. This means you can check any updates to someone’s certificate.
  • If you’re carrying out checks, you must comply with the DBS code of practice to make sure that any information released is used fairly.
  • You must always have an applicant’s consent to carry out a check and to use the update service.
  • Checks usually only include UK offences. If an applicant has been a resident overseas you’ll need to request their records in that country.

More information

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 26 April 2023

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