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DBS Checks for Volunteers

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is the service that processes all criminal record checks in England and Wales CRB checks are now called DBS checks.There are significant differences between the old CRB checks and the new DBS checks but as a broad rule of thumb, most roles where CRB checks were previously required, will still be eligible for a DBS check.

See below for further information on when to use DBS checks but also please see our pages on:


Rule of Thumb:

See below the NCVO Regulated Activity Flow chart for roles that legally require a DBS. However, very few roles are actually regulated activity and most charities involve volunteers in the less clear area of 'Eligible' roles.

If there is an opportunity to build a relationship with a vulnerable adult or child then you should be eligible to request a DBS (but not required by law to do one).

This would be the case if the role:

  • is unsupervised
  • Is working directly with the vulnerable adults or children
  • involves regular (weekly) contact with vulnerable adults or children 

It is really complicated to establish with certainty what roles are eligible but our Rule of Thumb DBS guidance goes through the process of how to decide.


Regulated Activity

  • There are only 6 categories of regulated activity and controlled activity has been abolished.
  • ​Few voluntary roles will fall under regulated activity
  • Regulated Activity requires an Enhanced check plus the barred list check.
  • It is currently illegal to knowingly allow a person on the barred list to work or volunteer in regulated activity.
  • You can do Enhanced DBS Checks for non-regulated activity as long as it is an eligible role.
  • ​It is unlawful to do a DBS check if the role is not eligible

NCVO have written a user friendly guide to help explain the different levels of check and eligibility and also produced flowcharts which can help you work out if your roles are included in regulated activity.

You can read these here:

NCVO Guidance on the Disclosure and barring Service (DBS) Checks process 

NCVO Regulated activity flow chart


Eligibility for DBS Checks

The eligibility for most roles has remained the same as it was for CRB checks. An organisation can only apply for a DBS check on a volunteer or employee if the role or job they will do is eligible for one. The organisation must tell the applicant why they are being checked and where they can get independent advice. There are 3 levels of checks:

  • Standard checks – To be eligible for a standard level DBS check, the position must be included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.

  • Enhanced checks – To be eligible for an enhanced level DBS check, the position must be included in both the ROA Exceptions Order and in the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations.

  • Enhanced checks with children’s and/or adult’s barred list check(s) – To be eligible to request a check of the children’s or adult’s barred lists, the position must be eligible for an enhanced level DBS check as above and be specifically listed in the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations as able to check the barred list(s).”

For further information see the DBS guidance on eligibility (Nov 2013).

Identity checking has changed

There are new regulations for identity checking.  See DBS guidelines

  • ​The minimum age to get a DBS check is 16. 
  • If your organisation does more than 100 DBS checks a year, you can register with DBS and do them directly.  This is a charged-for service. 
  • If you do fewer than 100 checks a year, you can use an umbrella body.  See the DBS directory of providers.  
  • There is information and guidance on the DBS process on the DBS website.  
  • If you are uncertain about whether or not a volunteer role should have a DBS check you can ring the DBS helpline: 0870 90 90 811 or you can email your role description with the subject, ‘Eligibility Question’ to

DBS checks are now portable and can be automatically updated

Register for the DBS update service and organisations can check your DBS status online instantly. No need to apply again if you move to a different organisation. This updating service is  free for volunteers. 

See our page on the DBS update service


DBS Checks for refugees and asylum seekers 

The new DBS regulations for identity checking it is likely that the majority of refugees and asylum seekers will have to be re-fingerprinted. 
See  full guidance on our DBS checks for asylum seekers page with details of the accepted documents, how the 'Fingerprint method' works and  guidance on completing the 5 years address section with people who have only been in the UK for a short period of time.

Also see our page on Involving refugees & asylum seekers volunteers