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I have been referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service, what does this mean? Task

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) maintains lists of people that are barred from work involving children or vulnerable adults, also called ‘regulated activity’ 

A referral to the DBS means that your information has been provided by an organisation or person because of concerns that you may have harmed a child or vulnerable adult, or put a child or vulnerable adult at risk of harm.

You will not be automatically be put on a barred list if you are referred. The DBS will consider the referral and decide if you will be added to one or both barred lists (there is a list for adults and a list for children).

The DBS follow a five-step process when they consider making a barring decision. At each stage, a decision is made if they should progress to the following stage. If the criteria to move to the next stage is not met, the case is closed and there is no further action. 

1. Initial case assessment  

The DBS will determine if your case is within its legal scope under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2016).  

  • For example, is there any evidence of harm posed to a child or vulnerable adult?  
  • Have you worked in the past/could you work in the future in a regulated activity?  

If these questions are answered ‘yes, then the case will progress to the next stage. 

2. Gather information to establish the risk of harm 

The DBS collect information from the relevant organisations that made your referral. They treat any cautions, convictions and findings of specified competent bodies as facts. The DBS will analyse this information, decide if a risk of harm has been established, and then consider if a move to the next stage is appropriate or not. 

3. Structured judgement process (SJP) 

SJP is an internal risk assessment tool that may be used to determine whether there is a future risk of harm to vulnerable people.  

If there is a risk of harm to children or vulnerable adults and barring is shown to be an appropriate outcome to the risk, the DBS will be ‘minded to bar’ you. The case will progress to the next stage.  

If no risk of harm is identified, usually the case will then be closed. 

4. Representations 

DBS will notify you if you have been ‘minded to bar’. You will then have an opportunity to make representations as to why you should not be barred. 

DBS will alert you to the legal powers that have been used and their reasons for making the ‘minded to bar’ decision. They will also send you all the information that was considered in making their decision.  

You will then have eight weeks to provide the DBS with your representations.  

5. Barring decision 

Once representations are made, the DBS thoroughly assess the case and a final decision is made. If you fail to make representations within the eight weeks and the DBS find it appropriate, you may be barred from working with vulnerable groups and you will be added to one or both of the children’s or adult’s barred lists. 

You will receive written notification of the outcome of your case. If the decision is made to bar you, you will receive information on your rights to appeal. 

If you are under consideration for inclusion in either the children’s or adult’s barred lists, the DBS may offer you a chance to make representations to explain why you should not be included in one or both lists.

The DBS will usually write to you to say you may be barred from working or volunteering in regulated activity with children and/or adults. If you are considered to be included in both barred lists, it could be possible that you are allowed to make representations in one list, but not the other. In their letter, DBS will advise you if you can make representations or not.

You can also make representations if you know that a referral has been made about you. However, if you have committed an auto bar offence, there is no opportunity to make representations against inclusion in the barred list(s) due to the severity of these offences.

Representations ensure that fair, consistent and thorough barring decisions are made by the DBS.

It is usual to make representations in writing. However, DBS has recently introduced a system in which oral representations are possible. You can find guides for making representations and oral representations to the DBS here.  

DBS is unable to help you in preparing your representations. You are allowed to take assistance from a friend, family member, solicitor, professional association or advisory body, etc. in making representations. If you would like anyone other than yourself to submit your representations and communicate directly with the DBS on your behalf, you will need to include a signed, written authority with this information. 

The DBS allows for eight weeks from the date of their notification letter for you to make your representations. However, if you feel that you need more time, you must write to them explaining why you need an extension. This request for an extension may or may not be granted.

You are not obliged to make representations. If you fail to provide evidence to support your case, the DBS will make their final decision based on information they already hold about you. Inclusion on a DBS barred list will last for your lifetime unless you appeal or seek a review. Making a representation allows you to make your case and give your interpretation of the circumstances that led to the referral.

It is possible to seek a review of the barring decision. The DBS may grant you permission for a review of your inclusion in either or both lists in any of the following cases: 

Where your role doesn’t meet the test of regulated activity.

If you do not meet the test of regulated activity – that you are, or you have been, or you might in future be engaged in regulated activity – the DBS must remove you from the relevant barred list(s) 

Where certain statutory conditions are met. 

You can request a review if you can demonstrate that one of the following criteria has been met: 

  • The information which the DBS did not have at the time of their barring decision
  • Any change in circumstances relating to you
  • An error by the DBS

Where you request a review after a minimum barring period. You can ask the DBS to review your inclusion in either or both barred lists after a minimum amount of time has passed. These periods are based on your age when you were barred:  

  • Under 18 years: one year 
  • 18 to 24 years: five years 
  • 25 or older: ten years 

You may find this link helpful for further information on seeking a review of the barring decision.