DBS checks for volunteers: An essential safety guide

Introduction to DBS checks

Volunteering involves trust, particularly when working with vulnerable groups such as children and adults with special needs. To ensure everyone's safety, conducting Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks is crucial. This guide explores the importance of DBS checks and outlines the types available for volunteers.

Why DBS checks are critical for volunteers

DBS checks help maintain a safe environment for all, particularly in sectors involving vulnerable individuals. These checks are not just a formality; they are a key part of safeguarding measures that assist organisations in making informed decisions about who they allow to volunteer.

Understanding DBS checks

  • What is a DBS check? A DBS check reviews a person’s criminal record history, including convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings, as well as checks against barred lists when necessary.
  • Who needs a DBS check? Not all volunteers may need a DBS check. It's essential for those in positions of trust or those working directly with vulnerable groups. Organisations need to assess which roles require these checks based on the exposure and responsibilities involved.

Types of DBS checks for volunteers

  • Basic DBS check: Reveals unspent convictions only.
  • Standard DBS check: Shows both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings.
  • Enhanced DBS check: Provides the same information as a Standard check plus any additional information held by police that's relevant to the role.

DBS checks for charity volunteers

While not all charity volunteers need DBS checks, those in roles that involve close contact with vulnerable groups should have them. It's vital for charities to determine the level of check required based on the specific duties of the volunteer.

Funding DBS checks

Charities generally bear the cost of DBS checks. However, discounts may be available through umbrella bodies, making it economical to secure the necessary checks for volunteers.

Processing time for DBS checks

Typically, DBS checks take about two weeks to process, although times can vary depending on the complexity of the background check needed.


DBS checks play a pivotal role in the volunteering sector, providing essential security and peace of mind for both organisations and their beneficiaries. By understanding the types of checks available and ensuring that all relevant personnel are appropriately vetted, charities can uphold a high standard of safety and integrity in their operations.

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