DBS, Disclosure Scotland and Access NI

If you’ve been applying for jobs in healthcare, financial services or education, then you’ve probably heard of the importance of vetting and checking. The system is all about stopping people with long criminal records from getting positions of responsibility. This could mean working with children, or having access to bank accounts. Some of the terms you’ll hear are DBS, Disclosure, CRB, AccessNI – but what does it all mean?

DBS – Disclosure and Barring Service

In England and Wales, the Disclosure and Barring Service run the police check system.  Their name is usually abbreviated to DBS. You’ll often hear people talking about DBS checks, or getting a disclosure done. The Disclosure and Barring Service does checks at three different levels. The level of check depends on the job. Sometimes you’ll hear people talking about having a CRB check. CRB was the Criminal Records Bureau, which the Disclosure and Barring Service replaced in 2013. You can’t apply to the CRB for a check any more as it doesn’t exist.

Disclosure Scotland and PVG

In Scotland, which has a separate legal system, Disclosure Scotland runs the police checks. Again, there are three separate levels of checking, depending on the intended job. People who are going to be working with children or adults have the most detailed level of checks done. These checks are usually run through the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme, or PVG. Although the names and terms are different to the words used in England and Wales, the system is pretty much the same. Certificates can’t be transferred between the systems. If you have an enhanced disclosure from Disclosure Scotland, you’ll have to apply for another check through DBS if you move to England and look for a similar job.


To complicate matters further, there’s a third system operating in Northern Ireland. Again, the way AccessNI checks up on people applying for positions of responsibility is very similar to the way it’s done in the rest of the UK. If you’re going to be working in Northern Ireland, employers will help you apply to AccessNI for clearance. One advantage is that applying through AccessNI is often a quick process, with shorter turnaround times than in other areas.

Finding the right system for you

It’s sensible to be aware that there are three separate systems in different parts of the UK. On a practical level, it’s not something many people have to worry about. It’s your employer’s job to be up to date with the legislation, and make sure they are applying through the correct system. All three of the systems have help pages online, or you can email them or call to get advice on your circumstances. If you aren’t sure about where to apply and how to do it, get in touch and we’ll do what we can to help. Alternatively, think about using a third party service to help with your application. If you’re not familiar with the system, having someone else on hand who can effortlessly guide you through can save a lot of time and effort in the long run.

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