How to obtain an Enhanced DBS check as an individual

Starting a business or striking out as a freelancer can be one of the most daunting things that someone can do in their lives.

Being directly responsible for ensuring regular income is no easy task but the benefits and freedom of running your own working life can be a just reward for the effort. 

One thing that people striking out on their own should research thoroughly are regulations specific to their chosen industry. Most sectors these days have legislation governing the exact credentials and qualifications you need in place before trading. One aspect of these regulations that is a frequent problem is the matter of obtaining an Enhanced DBS Check.  

An Enhanced DBS Check (formerly CRB Check) is the highest level of criminal record check available to UK employers. Requirements for Enhanced DBS Checks transcend any specific industry and are reserved for individuals working within, what is known as ‘regulated activity’. 

Simply put, regulated activity describes any job function where some kind of protection is required. This could be working with children, adults with disabilities or even something relating to national security. DBS Checks provide employers with criminal record information that can help decide whether someone is appropriate to fulfil a certain role.  

The definition of regulated activity is determined by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which is the government body responsible for carrying our criminal record checks. The eligibility criteria can be quite complex, but generally, people primarily working in education or health and social care roles meet the requirements.  

If you are planning on carrying our regulated activity, whether you’re a freelance or sole director of a company, obtaining an Enhanced DBS Check can be convoluted.

For example, if you were creating an online learning start-up, you would be required to have an Enhanced DBS Check in place due to having regular contact with children. However, individuals cannot carry out Enhanced DBS Checks on themselves. 

 To be able to complete an Enhanced DBS Check, there needs to be someone making a ‘recruitment or suitability decision’ based upon the result of said check. If you’re the only individual in your business, there is no one who can make this decision, so you can’t run the check.

This may sound strange, but it couldn’t be truer! Freelancers and entrepreneurs often find themselves in this situation because of the way the system is set up. 

But there are ways around this… 

Contact your local authority 

In many cases, if you need an Enhanced DBS Check to ensure your businesses compliance you can contact your local council or authority. Most local authorities have extensive experience processing DBS Checks for the various licences that they issue.

At best, they will be able to process your DBS Check, at worst, they should be able to give you some good advice about the best course of action for your circumstances. 

Contact your regulatory body 

If you are carrying our regulated activity in an industry that has a governing body, they may also be able to carry out the check for you. Bodies such as Ofsted or the CQC have set processes in place for new businesses that may be in need of Enhanced DBS Checks. You would have to meet their specific requirements, but this is usually a good option.  

Contact an external HR provider 

If you’re just starting out and compliance is one of your top concerns you may already be considering enlisting an HR provider to help you. External specialists are ideally situated to be able to run a DBS Check on you for your business.  

Even though they are external to your organisation, if you are outsourcing your HR requirements to them then they are actually able to make a recruitment or suitability decision from the results of your check.