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Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Guidelines

These guidelines set out an overview of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks (formerly CRB checks).


There are times when you need to know further background on your contributors or crew, for example if they are working with children or vulnerable adults, or if you are putting contributors in close proximity with each other. We have a duty of care to all our contributors to make sure they are safe, in particular vulnerable contributors or those under 18.


Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (as amended by the Legal Aid and Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) have made it harder to find out someone’s old or minor convictions. This means you may be unable to find out if someone is, for example, on the Sex Offenders Register or had a spent conviction for theft, before including them in your programme.

Types of DBS Check

  • Basic checks: These can be requested for any role. A basic check will show all unspent convictions. It will not highlight spent convictions or someone being on a Barred List like the Sex Offenders’ Register. Due to recent changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, the length of time for a conviction or caution to be spent has been reduced. If a custodial sentence was less than 6 months, it is now spent after 2 years after the sentence is completed. Custodial sentences of 6 months – 2.5 years are spent after 4 years, and custodial sentences of 2.5 - 4 years are spent after 7 years. Sentences over 4 years are never spent. Disclosure Scotland or Access NI will process applications.
  • Standard checks: These are suitable for eligible roles that involve regular regulated activity with children or vulnerable groups, or specific positions such as traffic wardens or probation officers. It will show any unspent convictions, cautions, warnings or reprimands along with any spent convictions and cautions that are not eligible for filtering.
  • Enhanced checks: These are suitable for eligible roles that involve regular regulated activity with children or vulnerable groups. It will show any unspent convictions, cautions, warnings or reprimands along with any spent convictions and cautions that are not eligible for filtering. Intelligence held by the police may also be included if the Police “reasonably believe it is pertinent to a recruitment decision”.
  • Enhanced with DBS Barred List checks: These are suitable for eligible roles that involve regular regulated activity with children or vulnerable groups. It will show the same information as an enhanced check along with any information held on the barred list(s) being checked. The Sex Offenders’ Register i.e. Protection of Children Act List (PoCA) and/or Protection of Vulnerable Adults (PoVA) will fall under these lists.

Checks should take between 2-4 weeks, but could take up to 3 months during busy periods such as when teachers are newly enrolled. DBS checks are unavailable for those under 16.


Activities must be regulated, regular and day to day. The DBS guidance says that regulated activity with children (i.e. caring for or supervising a child) that is unsupervised must be “carried out by the same person frequently (once a week or more often), or on 4 or more days in a 30-day period or overnight.”


Rolling DBS checks will keep your DBS check updated for an annual fee of £13.

Filtering of convictions and cautions

"Filtering" is the process the DBS use to determine whether information should be removed from a person's DBS certificate:

  • If over 18 at the time of the offence, a conviction will be filtered 11 years after the date of the conviction, and a caution 6 years after the date of the caution, provided that the applicant did not go to prison, has not committed any other offence and the offence was not of a violent or sexual nature.
  • If under 18 at the time of the offence, a conviction will be filtered 5.5 years after the date of the conviction, and a caution 2 years after the date of the caution, provided that the applicant did not go to prison, has not committed any other offence and the offence was not of a violent or sexual nature.

Subject Access Requests

  • Section 56 of the Data Protection Act makes it a criminal offence to ask someone you wish to employ or contract with to provide you services (which would cover crew and contributors) to get a Subject Access Request and reveal it. This would include a request to the police for their criminal record, including “spent” convictions. The provisions are not yet in force but are expected to be implemented later this year.

Other ways to find out a person’s background

  • Ask contributors and crew to self-disclose spent and unspent convictions, cautions, warnings or reprimands, or being on a Barred List.
  • Do a general internet and Lexus Nexus background check.
  • Apply for a Basic Disclosure Check from the Disclosure Scotland regime.
  • Ensure anyone without a Standard or Enhanced DBS check is not left unsupervised around children or vulnerable people.

New rules for Supporting Artists (SAs) working with Children

From 1 October 2015, agencies have 3 months’ notice that from 1 January 2016, an additional measure to protect under 18s will be applied by PACT and the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV and Sky. As well as the normal safeguarding guidelines, protocols and codes of conduct that each Broadcaster has in place, all Supporting Artists (SAs) who work on productions involving under 18s must have obtained a basic disclosure certificate which shows the SA has no unspent convictions for offences contained within the Sexual Offences Act 2003.


Producers should inform agencies if a production involves under 18s – this includes any programme that might engage an under 18 at any stage in the production in speaking or non-speaking roles. Certificates can be obtained from Disclosure Scotland or Access NI and a new certificate must be provided every 18 months and shown to the Agent. The Producer and Broadcaster may also request to see the certificate. If within that period an SA is convicted of an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the agent will need to be informed and the SA will be unable to work on any production involving under 18s . Wording confirming the SA has no unspent convictions for offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 will also be added to the chit.


Regular cast and crew on productions involving children are also required to have the requisite criminal checks, and children will be chaperoned at all times.


PACT and the Broadcasters have produced an FAQ document which can be found here.