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A new tool to help users check someone’s criminal record

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Checking someone’s criminal record isn’t straightforward. In some cases, employers must check someone’s criminal record, but in others it’s a criminal offence to request a check.

At the beginning of August we published a new tool that helps employers understand when they can request a criminal records check.

What the tool replaces

Before the tool, users trying to work out whether a particular job role was eligible for a check were sent to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) guidance in a PDF. They were told that “DBS eligibility guidance lists most roles that are eligible for a check”.

That guidance then told them “you can access the various Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) regulations by searching for them on This will not provide a list of job roles - such a list does not exist.” Users had to navigate the legislation to find the rules that applied to the role they were checking for.

How the new tool helps users

Now the content points users to the tool, where they can select the role they want to get a check for. They’re given a tailored answer, telling them whether they can request a check and what kind of check they can get. They no longer have to refer to the legislation.

We’re confident this has made things much easier for users. We’ve already received some great feedback from someone at the NSPCC who said: “I love the eligibility tool! What a great resource! Will certainly tell everyone about it!”

What’s next

The next stage will be to look at the user journeys between the tool and the DBS checks guide. We’ll also look at the guide itself, which was first published in 2012 and would benefit from iteration.

A cross-departmental challenge

This all helps to meet the user need about whether users are legally able to request a check, but it doesn’t help users to determine whether they’re obliged to get a check. The responsibility for that need sits with a number of departments and isn’t managed by DBS. This is a much bigger and more complex task.

The departments for each sector determine who needs to get a check - so, for example, for healthcare workers it’s Department of Health and for teachers and working with children it’s Department for Education.

Creating a tool to address this need would be a cross-departmental task on a large scale. At the moment we don’t have the resources to tackle it, but it’s another one to add to our wish list.

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  1. Comment by Angela Smith posted on

    Great work! Have you identified any other legislation that is unintelligible to the general public that could do with some explanation too?

    • Replies to Angela Smith>

      Comment by janeeastwood posted on

      Thanks for your comment, Angela. I’m glad you like the tool. We’re always on the lookout for ways we can help the general public and have many tools on the site that interpret difficult rules. Most of the content is designed with the the aim of creating clear guidance from complex legislation.