Congratulations – you’ve successfully completed the steps needed to get a DBS check and the form has just arrived in the post. The first thing to do is to read through the form and make sure there are no errors on it. Then you can show it to your new employer and start work. You should keep hold of your form rather than letting your employer have it. You’ll also probably notice that there’s no expiry date on your DBS form. Nothing which says when it’s valid from and to. The only date on a DBS certificate is the date it was issued. So how do you know when it’s time to replace it?
Why is there no expiry date on a DBS check?
Any DBS check is designed to act as a “snapshot picture” of the situation on any given day. The DBS certificate reflects the information held on the police computer on the day the certificate was printed. In theory, you could commit a serious crime the very next day and your employer would be none the wiser as your DBS certificate would be clear. It’s left to employers and voluntary organisations to decide how often they feel checks should be done. Usually, employers decide that three or five years is the right interval between checks but this isn’t set down by law. It’s up to each organisation to look at their needs and make the decision that’s right for them.
Are we too hung up on expiry dates anyway?
DBS checks are the best system we have for making sure that unsuitable people are barred from certain occupations. However, given that the forms are only up to date on the day they’re printed, are we putting too much faith in them? DBS checks are only part of what an organisation should be doing in terms of safeguarding. Organisations should also have systems in place to allow workers to raise concerns at any time. Whistleblowers should be protects, and encouraged to tell management about anything they witness which worries them. Reports should be thoroughly investigated, and action taken if it is necessary to do so. Safeguarding isn’t something which is done once then can be forgotten. Staff should all be aware that safeguarding is an ongoing process.
One way around the issue with expiry dates and DBS is to use the DBS Update service. This is an opt-in service – you don’t have to be a member if you don’t want to. Signing up to the Update service gives you access to an online DBS portal. Your record is automatically updated with any new information, so it’s always current. If you change jobs or take on a new voluntary role, you can just give your new employer access to your records. Not only are they seeing the most up to date DBS information, but they can do it instantly. DBS Update does cost more than just getting a single DBS check, but if you’re the sort of person who changes jobs regularly, the investment is probably worth it.