The application process for DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service), or CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) up until recently, has always been considered a straightforward system. Put simply if someone is likely to be working with children or vulnerable people they need to obtain a DBS in order to legally be allowed access to those working with children or in healthcare, or to foster or adopt a child.

But the dynamics of those working under a DBS seem to have changed in recent years though.  What was once a pretty competent checking process has now been met with more rigorous testing and regular checks on those who hold one.

In creating a more ‘see-through’ society, companies like The Athena Programme have proved invaluable in educating companies on what to look out for. In cases where concerns have been raised about a  colleague, it’s vital businesses or individuals know what next steps to take.

If an employer or organisation has concerns that a person has caused harm, or poses a future risk of harm to vulnerable groups, including children, they will refer them to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The person could be added to one or both of the DBS barred lists.

DBS makes decisions whether to bar a person from working in regulated activity with children and/or adults where the person has:

  • been convicted of or cautioned for certain offences, known as autobar offences (relevant offences in England and Wales)
  • harmed a child or vulnerable adult, or when DBS considers the person poses a risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult.

DBS can only consider a person for inclusion in a barred list where the person is, or has been, or might in future be working with vulnerable groups including children, in regulated activity.

So what should you do if they find a letter from the DBS board on your doorstep?

If DBS writes to say you may be barred from working/volunteering in regulated activity with children or adults, you can make representations. Or you can make representations if you know that a referral has been made about you.

Representations are an important part of making fair, consistent and thorough barring decisions. This is your opportunity to put your point across so that all evidence is taken into consideration before the decision on barring is made. You will be advised if you can make representations or not when DBS write to you.

It is important that you think about the value of the information and evidence that you are going to supply for representations. For example, if you’re sending in a character reference from a friend as support, it can have a higher evidential value if the friend has knowledge of why you are being considered for a barred list. If the friend doesn’t have this knowledge, the evidential value may be lower.

DBS is unable to assist in preparing your representations. However, you may like to approach someone else, for example a solicitor, carer, family member, trade union representative, professional association or another advisory body to help you.

It’s important to understand that making representations doesn’t guarantee that you will not be included in a barred list. But supplying your representations helps DBS to have all relevant information to support fair and balanced decision-making.

As with written representations, oral representations provide an opportunity to explain why you feel it would be inappropriate or disproportionate for DBS to include you in one or both of the barred lists.

DBS considers all the information you supply as part of the representations process; which can be from a wide range of sources. These include an explanation of your offending behaviour, mitigating factors for your offending behaviour, insight into, or remorse for your offending behaviour, action taken by you, or courses completed to address your offending behaviour, career history, professional references and testimonials. The list is endless.

For a full list of guidance and information on recent government legislation, log on to

Barrinf Reviews –

Barring appeals guidance –

11 April 2016 – updates on barring/statutory guidance –