Criminal background checks are imperative for anyone working in childcare to ensure the safety of all children. This includes school staff as well as childcare providers outside of a school setting, including childminders and children’s home providers.
Recent news stories have reminded everyone of the importance of ensuring that all people who have access to children are safe to do so. According to a response to an appeal for information from the DBS, requested by training provider the Knowledge Academy, more than 4,000 convicted criminals made up 26% of those applying for teaching positions in 2016. The crimes ranged from attempted murder to theft, but mostly involved driving under the influence. Worryingly though, some applicants were also found to have been convicted of kidnapping and sexually motivated crimes.
Criminal checking is essential to guarantee the safety of children and other staff, as well as to comply with government regulations.
The authorities providing criminality checks in the UK are Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), covering England and Wales, Disclosure Scotland (DS) and Access NI (Northern Ireland).
There are three main levels of checking: Basic – which only checks for unspent convictions, Standard – which looks for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, warnings and reprimands, and Enhanced – the highest level of check which reveals spent and unspent convictions, cautions, warnings, reprimands and any other relevant police data.
Anyone working with people under the age of 18, or who may encounter children during the course of their job, are required by law to undertake a criminal records check. If childcare is to take place within a domestic setting, i.e. a childminder caring for children within their own home, then all adults living in the home will also be subject to a DBS check.
While childcare providers are under a huge amount of strain, the safety of children is the most important priority. DBS checking should be repeated annually to ensure that it reflects any more recent convictions and candidates should also be made aware of their obligations to disclose any new or ongoing criminal investigations or proceedings during their employment.
DBS checking only reveals criminal activity in the UK, it will not reveal criminal activity which has taken place abroad, whether the applicant is a British National or not. For non-UK nationals, it is important to carry out a criminal record disclosure on the home country to ensure that applicants are safe to work with children.