Criminality checking for social workers

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With 100,000 registered social workers in the UK who have access to children and vulnerable people, it is a legal obligation that all those working in social services have a full criminal background check to meet safeguarding requirements and ensure the ongoing safety of vulnerable people accessing social services.

All candidates who will have regular, unsupervised access to children are required by law to have a full enhanced DBS check, this will confirm that they have not been banned or suspended from working with children. People accessing social services are among the most vulnerable people in society; children, young people and those with mental health disorders all rely on properly trained and screened staff to keep them safe.

According to recent figures, over 20% of the UK working age population has a criminal record which might ban them from working with children. And while most people working in the industry have good intentions, sadly instances of abuse within the social care industry do happen and are well documented by the media.

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, who may encounter children during the course of their job, or working with the vulnerable, are required by law to undertake an Enhanced DBS criminal records check.

Remember that DBS checking is accurate only at the time of the check, employees working in social services should be rechecked annually to ensure that all information is up to date. Candidates should also be made aware of their contractual responsibilities to disclose any new or ongoing criminal investigations or proceedings during their employment.

Criminal records checking helps safeguard the people accessing social services as well as those working in the industry, and with vigilance and ongoing checking, you can help ensure the safety of people when they need it most.