A brief guide to understanding if you or a club member need a DBS check

It’s not always easy to know if you or an instructor at your club requires an enhanced DBS check. Adding to the matter that conducting a check on someone who does not require it is an offence, and it makes for a sometimes difficult decision as to whether or not one is really needed.

Hold on a moment; is it really illegal to order a DBS check if it’s not required?

Yep, we know – ridiculous. This has been a major frustration of ours for years. It’s illegal for an employer (or organisation) to request that you complete a DBS check if the position is only eligible for a basic check. It’s also illegal for an employer or course provider to request an enhanced and barred DBS check for a position that is not defined as regulated activity with children or adults.

You’ll notice we’re using the term ’employer’ here. This is because the DBS checking process is primarily designed for employers so when you have a governing body or sanctioning body requiring that you – as a sovereign club and not an employee – demonstrate suitability to teach children, we hit a bit of a technical wall.

You have the right under the Data Protection Act to request information held about you and any convictions or records to your name, unfortunately (for us atleast) this isn’t sufficient. We put safeguarding first, so we work from the DBS framework to ensure a compliant, competent frame of reference when it comes to vetting and suitability. For now, let’s not get too hung up on the legal technicalities of who can and can’t order a check – we’ll cross this bridge in a moment.

Who needs a check?

There are some very particular technicalities on this. The Social Justice Charity NARCO have done some great work on clearly explaining what each type of DBS check is for;

Basic checks

Eligibility All employers are entitled to ask and know about any unspent convictions an applicant may have. All employers are therefore entitled to request an applicant to apply for/provide a basic check, which will disclose details of unspent convictions.
Posts Any (paid or voluntary)

Standard Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

Eligibility If you are recruiting for a position that is exempt from the ROA, you are entitled to ask applicants to apply for a standard DBS check, which will provide details of spent and unspent convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands that are not protected (i.e. eligible for filtering).
Posts (including but not limited to) Accountants, barristers, Financial Conduct Authority approved persons, members of the Master Locksmiths Association, Security Industry Authority licence holders, solicitors, traffic wardens.

Enhanced DBS checks

Eligibility If you are recruiting for a position that is exempt from the ROA and is included in the Police Act 1997, you are entitled to ask applicants to apply for an enhanced DBS check. This will provide details of spent and unspent convictions, cautions, final warnings and reprimands that are not protected (i.e. eligible for filtering). The police may also include any other information they feel may be relevant to the application.
Posts (including but not limited to) Roles including work with children (as defined by regulation 5C of the Police Act 1997) and work with adults (as defined by regulation 5B of the Police Act 1997).

Enhanced and barred DBS checks

Eligibility If you are recruiting for a role that is defined as regulated activity with children or adults under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (as amended) you are legally obliged to check the applicant’s barred list status and may ask them to apply for an enhanced and barred DBS check.
Posts (including but not limited to) Teachers, registered health care professionals, social workers, carers

So what about me and my club?

It’s impossible for us to be able to offer you any qualified advice on this, as it will inevitably vary from club to club. The key requirement is that you must be vetting staff, instructors and volunteers to the suitable levels as required by law. For most instructors teaching children (anyone under the age of 18) or any adults at risk you will require the highest level of clearance – an enhanced and barred DBS check.

We contacted the Disclosure & Barring Service directly to pose the following question to them;

[What check is suitable for a person] Teaching martial arts on an unsupervised basis to children under the age of 18 and/or adults at risk, in varying premises. Classes will typically be the instructor with up to 15 under 18 year old students, or on a one to one basis.

Their response was as follows;

Ultimately it is the decision of an employer or suitability decision maker to determine what type of check they require for persons undertaking work with or for them.

However based on the information you have provided this role could be eligible for an enhanced DBS check with a children’s barred list check if the role is responsible for providing teaching, training or instruction, or care or supervision to children, and this is being performed on more than 3 days in a rolling 30 day period.

Any activity which involves teaching, training, instruction, care or supervision of children (where this is not incidental to performing the same tasks with adults) and where this occurs on more than times in a 30 day period, could be in regulated activity.

Where the above criteria is met but the activities / duties are being carried out on an infrequent basis (but still more than once), eligibility will likely exist for an enhanced DBS certificate but without a check of the DBS children’s barred list. 

It is for the employing organisation to determine if this DBS check is proportionate for the role being performed by the staff, making careful consideration of the roles and responsibilities, regularity, level of contact with children and levels of supervision

Ultimately, you as the lead instructor will need to make a decision on the most appropriate type of check. If you’re a member of an association that takes safeguarding seriously you should be able to ask for guidance. We’re happy to provide this information to our members as a standard part of all memberships, and most other NGBs should do the same.

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As with all of the guidance and articles shared throughout our website, this information should not be considered professional advice and is for informational and discussion basis only. You must always take your time to ensure any provisions made at club level are correct and accurate to their intended needs. Only you can do this. We’re available to talk if you’d like to learn more.