The new Disclosure and Barring Service

On Saturday 1 December, a new non-departmental Public Body was created, so uniting the functions of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

The new Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is now responsible for maintaining the barred lists. Employers must not allow a person who they know or have reason to believe has been barred by the DBS, and who therefore appears on the list, to engage in regulated activity. Appropriate referrals must also now be sent to the DBS, which will also conduct CRB checks. Enhanced CRB checks  are still possible on anyone who fell within the old definition of regulated activity. However, enhanced disclosures for those no longer in regulated activity will not include barred list information.

Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA)

PoFA covers a whole range of issues. Significantly however, the Act also makes provision for the setting up of the new DBS.

By way of reminder, the Act, by amending the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, restricts the scope of the vetting and barring scheme and makes changes to the system of criminal records. In particular, it:

  • removes the requirement for people to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority ("ISA") and for continuous monitoring;  
  • reduces the number of positions requiring checks by amending the scope of regulated activity in relation to children to exclude many of those whose work is of an occasional or temporary nature. This will mean that maintenance work or a visit from an author would no longer be regulated activity (although those teaching, training, instructing, caring, supervising or advising, even on an occasional or temporary nature will still be covered);
  • removes the concept of "controlled activity" which had meant that workers such as ancillary support workers in further education and the NHS would be caught by the scheme;  
  • amends the definition of vulnerable adult so that they are defined by the activities being carried out regardless of the setting or service;
  • provides for CRB certificates to be updated, which will make them more portable; and  
  • introduces a minimum age for applicants for CRB checks of 16.

The Act does not affect the obligations on employers to refer employees or volunteers to the ISA in appropriate circumstances. It also remains the case that institutions still need to carry out checks on individuals before allowing them to undertake regulated activity.

Most of these changes were effective from 10 September 2012.

What's next?

The DBS is planning to launch a new online service early next year. Those applying for new criminal record checks will be offered the opportunity to register with DBS Update Service, so removing the need for repeat applications for DBS checks. Employers will be able to use an online service to confirm whether or not an individual's check is up to date. Through the check, institutions will be able to establish if further relevant information has been indentified since the initial certificate was issued.

Also, the DBS plans to begin issuing the certificate to the applicant only, so allowing the applicant to dispute and make representations regarding the information the certificate contains without the potential employer seeing the information. However, registered bodies will be able to track the progress of applications online and will know whether a certificate has been issued or not and, if so, when.