Safer recruitment Vetting, disclosure and barring checks
Vetting is the process of making sure that candidates are suitable for a role.
There are a variety of recommended processes and checks to ensure you employ the right people to work or volunteer with children:
- criminal records checks
- overseas checks
- checking professional status (including eligibility to teach)
- checking identification and eligibility to work in the UK
- checking qualifications.
Criminal records checks
These are a vital part of the safer recruitment process for everyone working with children.
Each nation in the UK uses a different scheme, but they are all aligned and recognise each other’s decisions. A person who is barred from working with children in one nation will be barred across the UK.
England and Wales
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers and voluntary organisations in England and Wales make safer recruitment decisions.
AccessNI provides disclosure information and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) carries out barring procedures for Northern Ireland.
Disclosure Scotland carries out criminal record checks and manages the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
Applying for a criminal records check
Organisations can apply directly or use an umbrella body.
To apply directly for criminal records checks, organisations must register with their national disclosure service.
- England and Wales: organisations needing at least 100 checks a year can register directly with the DBS.
- Northern Ireland: organisations must process a minimum of 20 checks every year to be able to register with AccessNI.
- Scotland: there is no minimum number of checks needed to register with Disclosure Scotland.
More information is available on the website of each disclosure service.
Using an umbrella body
If an organisation is not registered to apply directly to the disclosure service for criminal records checks, they can use an umbrella body. Full lists of umbrella bodies are available on the website of each nation’s disclosure service.
- Individuals can't ask for a criminal records check on themselves, unless they apply to Disclosure Scotland for a basic check (you don’t have to be Scottish to be able to do this).
- You can’t request a criminal record check for individuals under 16 years old.
- A criminal records check is only valid on the date stated on the certificate but:
- people joining the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme in Scotland will have their suitability to work with children checked regularly
- in England and Wales, individuals who have a new DBS check can subscribe to the update service, which means they can keep their certificate up to date and take it with them to a new employer.
Different types of checks
Employers can ask for different types of criminal record check. The choice of check will depend on the nature of the work being carried out.
These are the checks you would request for employment which does not involve working with children. They give details of police convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings.
An enhanced check give the same police convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings as with a standard check but it also includes any additional relevant known information.
This is needed for anyone working in “regulated activity”.
What is “regulated activity”?
Regulated activity with children means carrying out any of the following activities frequently (more than 3 days in a 30 day period):
- unsupervised activities: teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children; providing advice/guidance on wellbeing, or driving a vehicle only for children;
- working for limited range of “specified places” with the opportunity for contact with children and young people, for example schools, children’s homes, childcare premises;
These are also examples of regulated activity if unsupervised:
- engaging in intimate or personal care of children
- health care (including by a registered health care professional).
England, Northen Ireland and Wales
The Department for Education (DfE) has provided information about what constitutes regulated activity in England, Northern Ireland and Wales:
Regulated activity in relation to children: scope. Factual note by HM Government (PDF) (Department for Education, 2012).
The government has also provided schools, youth groups and sports clubs with statutory guidance on the supervision of activity with children:
Statutory guidance: regulated activity (children) - supervision of activity with children which is regulated activity when unsupervised (PDF) (Department for Education, 2013).
In Scotland, guidance on what constitutes regulated activity is provided in the Protecting vulnerable groups scheme: guidance for individuals, organisations and personal employers (PDF) (Disclosure Scotland, 2010).
Supply teachers, student teachers and contractors in schools are all in regulated activity and so need an enhanced with barred list check. This is not needed if an individual has been working in regulated activity in a school or educational establishment in the 3 months prior to the new appointment.
Volunteers, such as a parent helping regularly in school, do not need an enhanced with barred list check if they are closely supervised.
If you find that someone who has applied to work with children is barred, you should notify the police.
If a candidate has been resident overseas for 3 months or more over the past 5 years, you should obtain a check of the candidate’s criminal record from the relevant authority in that country. The Home Office provides guidance on applying for criminal records checks for overseas applicants.
All documents not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
Pre-employment checks for teachers
Before appointing teachers you must check:
- the candidate’s qualifications and qualified teaching status
- their eligibility to work as a teacher.
Teachers can be prohibited from teaching children and young people for various reasons, including unacceptable professional conduct or relevant conviction.
Checking a teacher's record
You can check teacher records through the following organisations:
- England: National Council of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL)
- Northern Ireland: General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI)
- Scotland: General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS)
- Wales: Education Workforce Council in Wales (EWC).
Guidance on pre-employment checks
- England: Department for Education (DfE) guidance on pre-employment checks for schools is included in Keeping children safe in education: statutory guidance for schools and colleges (PDF) (Department for Education (DfE) 2018).
- Northern Ireland: the Department of Education has issued guidance for schools and employing authorities on pre-employment safer recruitment practices for volunteers (Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI), 2012) and paid staff (DENI, 2013).
- Scotland: guidance on recruitment for employers of people who work with children is being updated. Visit the Scottish Government webpage on Safer recruitment guidance.
- Wales: safeguarding guidance for schools includes advice on pre-appointment checks (Welsh Government, 2015).
Disqualification by association
In England, if somebody lives in the same household as another person who has been disqualified from working with children, they can be disqualified from working in certain settings with children under the age of 8.
The Department for Education (DfE) has published statutory guidance for schools and local authorities (DfE, 2015).
Verification of identify, qualifications and professional status
The most practical and appropriate time to check identity and certificates is at interview.
- Verify a candidate’s identity with photographic identification. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and AccessNI offer guidance for checking ID (DBS, 2017; Access NI, 2017).
- Request to see original or certified copies of any qualifications. These should be verified by the qualification awarding body.
- Verify registration to appropriate professional bodies by email or phone.
Support for professionals
Safer recruitment training
Access NI (2017) Access NI: criminal records checks. [Accessed 30/05/2017].
Department for Education (DfE) (2012) Regulated activity in relation to children: scope. Factual note by HM Government (PDF). [London]: Department for Education (DfE).
Department for Education (DfE) (2013) Statutory guidance: regulated activity (children) - supervision of activity with children which is regulated activity when unsupervised (PDF). [London]: Department for Education (DfE).
Department for Education (DfE) (2015) Disqualification under the Childcare Act 2006: statutory guidance for local authorities, maintained schools, academies and free schools (PDF). [London] Department for Education (DfE).
Department for Education (DfE) (2018) Keeping children safe in education: statutory guidance for schools and colleges (PDF). London: Department for Education (DfE).
Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) (2012) Disclosure and barring arrangements: changes to pre-employment vetting checks for volunteers working in schools from 10 September 2012 (PDF). [Bangor]: DENI.
Department of Education Northern Ireland (DENI) (2013) Disclosure and barring arrangements: vetting requirements for paid staff working in or providing service for schools (PDF). [Bangor]: DENI.
Disclosure and Barring Service (2017) DBS checks: guidance for employers. [Accessed 30/05/2017].
Disclosure Scotland (2010) Protecting vulnerable groups scheme: guidance for individuals, organisations and personal employers (PDF). [Edinburgh] Scottish Government.
Welsh Government (2015) Keeping learners safe: the role of local authorities, governing bodies and proprietors of independent schools under the Education Act 2002 (PDF). [Cardiff]: Welsh Government.