Human Resources

Recruitment & probation

Guidance for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks

Introduction

1. This procedure gives effect to the University’s policy for accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and should be read in conjunction with that policy.

Register of DBS Countersignatories

2. The University has appointed a small number of University staff in professional roles in the Academic Registry and HR to be countersignatories for DBS disclosure applications. 
 
3. A countersignatory is a person within the University who signs disclosure applications, making a declaration that the job role, course enrolment / activity is eligible for disclosure.  When information provided on the DBS certificate or the additional information provided by the police is a cause for concern, they provide advice to inform the decision whether or not the applicant will be allowed to undertake the role, course or activity to which the DBS application refers.  The Lead Countersignatory is a senior member of staff who oversees the DBS process within the University.
 
4. To undertake duties as a countersignatory, the following criteria must be fulfilled:

a. The countersignatory must be a University employee;

b. The countersignatory must give their consent to the University applying for an enhanced disclosure from the DBS in relation to them and the certificate subsequently received must be satisfactory to the University.

c. The countersignatory must have read and understood the following documents:

i. The University’s Policy for Accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service
ii. The University’s guidance for countersignatories
iii. The University’s and DBS’ guidance on ID checking
i.v The Revised Code of Practice for Disclosure and Barring Service Registered Persons (2015) published by the Home Office

d. The countersignatory must have attended a briefing with a member of the HR Team trained in DBS processes and, at the earliest opportunity, must attend a relevant University training course.

e. The countersignatory must notify the University’s Lead Countersignatory immediately if they are the subject of a police investigation, charged with a criminal offence or receive a police caution.  All information will be treated in the strictest confidence.

5. The University considers the role of countersignatory to be a position of trust.  Failure to uphold the Revised Code of Practice for Disclosure and Barring Service Registered Persons (2015) or  comply with the University’s Policy for Accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service or to follow approved checking arrangements may result in disciplinary action.

Guidance for Countersignatories

6. This guidance is intended to support countersignatories to fulfil their responsibilities as set out in the University’s Policy for Accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service

The legal context

7. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 was introduced to ensure that ex-offenders are not discriminated against when applying to work or study.  For most job roles and courses, an applicant’s unspent police record is not relevant.  However, job roles or activities that involve a position of trust (including those which involve regular contact with children and/or vulnerable adults) and regulated courses that have fitness to practice requirements are exempt from the ROA and the University may seek disclosure of otherwise confidential information held in police records from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).  It is an offence to apply for, offer to do, accept or do any work with children or vulnerable adults (paid or unpaid) if barred from working with children or vulnerable adults. It is an offence to knowingly offer a barred person work or a placement with children/vulnerable adults or to allow them to continue in such work.  Countersignatories should read the Revised Code of Practice for Disclosure and Barring Service Registered Persons (2015) published by the Home Office.

List of eligible job roles / courses / student activities

8. The University is entitled to seek disclosure only in respect of job roles, courses and activities which satisfy the eligibility criteria under the relevant legislation.  The University is developing a list of these and the countersignatory must refer to or amend the current list before signing off a disclosure application.  Countersignatories should read the current DBS guidance on eligibility and workforce guides on the gov.uk website.

The countersignatory’s role in DBS ID checks

9. A number of University staff are trained as DBS verifiers and will confirm the identity of the majority of disclosure applicants.  However, where the applicant is unable to provide the requisite number and/or combination of identity documents, the countersignatory will progress the identity check in line with DBS guidance. 

Completing the DBS application form

10. The countersignatory should complete section X  of the application form.  When all the sections have been completed, the countersignatory should complete and sign the declaration in section Y.

Considering the DBS certificate

11. In most cases, the certificate will be shown to the verifier in the School or Professional Service area in the first instance.  Additional intelligence held by the police will be shared directly with the countersignatory in the case of enhanced and barred list checks.  If the contents of a DBS disclosure give cause for concern, the countersignatory will provide advice to the relevant manager when consideration is given as to whether the applicant will be allowed to take up a job role, enrol on a course or take on a particular remit.  If appropriate, they will seek advice from relevant senior members of the University such as a senior member of Human Resources or the Academic Registry, in conjunction with a senior colleague from the area in which the applicant will be or is based.  In some cases it may be necessary to seek the applicant’s agreement to involve external partners in the assessment of the information provided, for example, in relation serious disclosures made with regard to trainee teachers. The countersignatory will note on the DBS record the names of the individuals with whom the DBS information has been shared.

12. Countersignatories are reminded that if the content of a DBS disclosure is considered to be unsatisfactory, it  must be discussed with the applicant before an offer of a job role, course place or student activity is withdrawn.

13. Countersignatories must ensure that certificate information is only divulged to those who are authorised to receive it in the course of their duties.  It is a criminal offence to pass information to anyone not entitled to receive it. 

Register of DBS Verifiers

15. The University has appointed a number of University staff in academic Schools and Professional Services as DBS verifiers.  They have a vital role to play in ensuring that the University’s DBS processes are safe and legally compliant.

16. Verifiers work with Human Resources or the Academic Registry to determine the appropriate level of check to be undertaken, if not already included in the University’s list.  The decision as to the level of check to be undertaken is the responsibility of the countersignatory.

17. Verifiers also confirm the identities of prospective staff and students for whom the University is seeking disclosure of confidential information from the DBS before an application is submitted. 

18. Verifiers are usually the first point of contact to see the applicant’s certificate, referring any concerns in relation to the information provided to the relevant  manager / academic member of staff and the countersignatory.

19. To undertake duties as a DBS verifier, the following criteria must be fulfilled:

a. The verifier must be a University employee.

b. The verifier must have read and understood the following University policies and guidance:

i. The University’s Policy for Accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service
ii. The University’s guidance for DBS verifiers
iii. The University’s guidance on ID checking

c. The verifier must have attended a briefing with one of the University’s countersignatories or a member of the HR Team trained in DBS processes.

d. The verifier must notify one of the University’s countersignatories immediately if they are the subject of a police investigation, charged with a criminal offence or receive a police caution.  All information will be treated in the strictest confidence.

20. The University considers the role of DBS verifier to be a position of trust.  Failure to comply with the University’s Policy for Accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service or to follow the approved ID checking procedures may result in disciplinary action.

Guidance for DBS Verifiers

21. This guidance is intended to support DBS verifiers fulfil their responsibilities as set out in the University’s Policy for Accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service

Establishing the right level of check

22. Verifiers provide information in relation to the role, course or activity on behalf of their School or Professional Service to support the countersignatory in determining the appropriate level of check to be undertaken in cases where this information is not already included on University’s lists or it is timely to revisit the information, for example, in the event of a change to a role or course.

ID checking

23. It is extremely important that the identity of the subject of a disclosure application is confirmed to ensure both that sensitive personal information is not disclosed in error and to guard against fraud – the University must be as certain as it can be that an applicant for a job role involving working with children and/or vulnerable adults or for a course with fitness to practice requirements is who they say they are.

24. Verifiers must:

  • meet the applicant in person to confirm the visual ID check.
  • only accept documentation which is listed in and complies with the requirements set out in the current version of the DBS identity checklist.
  • refer the matter to a countersignatory in the event that the applicant is unable to provide these documents. 
  • include documents only once in the count, for example,  bank statements cannot be accepted twice if they are from the same bank.
  • only accept valid, current and original documentation, not photocopies nor documentation printed from the internet e.g. internet bank statements.
  • use the documentation to validate the applicant’s name, date of birth and address recorded in sections A and B on the DBS application form.
  • compare the applicant’s photographic identity (e.g. passport, photo driving licence, etc.) to their physical likeness.
  • check that all documents are in the applicant’s current name as recorded in section A of the application form.
  • ensure that at least one document confirms the applicant’s date of birth as recorded in section A of the application form.
  • ensure that the applicant declares all previous name changes and provides documentary proof to support the change of name. If the applicant is unable to provide proof to support the change of name, the verifier must refer the matter to one of the University’s countersignatories.
  • see at least one document to confirm the applicant’s current address as recorded in section B.
  • ensure that the applicant provides a full and continuous address history covering the last five years and, where possible, seek documentation to confirm this address history.
  • not accept the foreign equivalent of an identity document if that document is listed as ‘UK only’ on the list of valid identity documents.

25. The verifier will maintain contact with the applicant and arrange for them to show their original certificate (not a copy) to them in person.  The verifier will make a note of the certificate number and provide this to the HR Partnering team for their DBS records.

26. If the certificate contains information other than a ‘nil return’ the verifier will inform  the countersignatory who will discuss the matter with the relevant manager. 

Guidance on receiving, handling and storing DBS applications and supporting documents

Before a disclosure application is completed

27. If a particular job role, course or activity is subject to a satisfactory DBS disclosure, this will be made clear in the pre-application course information or in the advert and further particulars for a job role.

28. Where a DBS disclosure is required, applicants will receive a DBS application form from the verifier for their School or Professional Service who will advise how, when and where to return their completed application form and supporting documents.

Verification and completing the disclosure application

29. Only trained DBS verifiers and countersignatories are authorised to verify the identity of applicants.  Only trained countersignatories are authorised to complete disclosure applications.

30. It is important that accurate and timely records are kept by HR partnering (staff) and the Academic Registry (students) of:

a. when an application has been received;
b. the type of identity documents provided;
c. any follow-up action taken;
d. the  check requested;;
e. the date a completed application is sent to the DBS
f. the individuals with whom the disclosure information is discussed;
g. any follow up discussions and the outcome

31. Schools and Professional Service areas should keep only minimal details of DBS checks requested for the purpose of processing those checks i.e. the name of the individual, their role, their Dept and level of check requested, when the certificate is seen, the certificate number and whether this is referred to the countersignatory for further consideration.  Copies of the application or the certificate must not be retained by the School or Department and all information relating to the check must be disposed of in accordance with the arrangements set out in this guidance and the University’s Policy for Accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service.  A record of the check will be retained by the Human Resources or the Academic Registry.

32.   Photocopies or electronic copies of the completed application forms and identity documents may be taken by the countersignatory pending a decision in relation to the applicant’s suitability for the role, course or activity but must not be filed with the applicant’s personnel file or student record.  Paper copies must be stored in a lockable, non-portable, secure container (such as a lockable filing cabinet).  Electronic copies should be treated as sensitive personal data for the purposes of storage and access and should be disposed of securely in line with the requirements set out in the University’s Policy for Accessing the Disclosure and Barring Service.

During the application process

33. It is important, that there is a robust system in place to ensure that the applicant is contacted at regular intervals for updates on the process and reminded of the necessity of producing the original disclosure certificate for scrutiny by the University.  Additionally, Human Resources and Academic Registry are able to use the DBS tracking system to track the progress of multiple disclosure applications and to check whether a certificate has been issued to an individual.

34. If the University has not had sight of the original disclosure certificate before the anticipated start date of a job role or beginning of the academic year (prospective students), consideration should be given to whether the offer should be withdrawn, deferred or whether restricted arrangements can be put in place pending the receipt of the DBS certificate.  In these circumstances, verifiers should alert the relevant manager and seek the advice of the countersignatory.  It is the responsibility of the relevant manager to put in place robust supervision and monitoring arrangements to ensure that the University complies with its obligations with regard to regulated activity.

When the certificate is received

35. Once the disclosure certificate is received, the verifier will notify their HR Officer or Senior HR Officer (for staff) or Academic Registry (for students) if the certificate contents are satisfactory and provide them the certificate number to be included on the central record.  The applicant will be advised in writing, with a copy of the letter placed on the student record/personnel file.         If the contents of a DBS disclosure contains information over and above a ‘nil return’, the process set out in paragraph 11 will be followed.

After the disclosure application process has been completed

36. The University may keep a record of the date of issue of a certificate, the name of the subject, the type of certificate requested, the position for which the certificate was requested, the unique reference number of the certificate and the details of the recruitment (or other relevant) decision taken. 

The currency of DBS disclosure certificates

37. DBS disclosure certificates are only valid at the time of issue and a fresh disclosure must be sought for every new course enrolment or new job role where a DBS check is applicable, even for current students or staff of the University.