About Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

If you’re about to start a course that involves working with children or vulnerable adults you’ll need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

What is a DBS check?

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check looks into your background and reveals any convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings you may have received in the past. This provides potential employers with the information they need to make sure all the appropriate safeguards are in place when deciding who should work with them.

Your DBS may also include information held on the children and adults ‘barred’ lists, as well as information held by the police that might be relevant to any work you’ll be doing.

To find out more please read the University's policy and procedure on DBS checks (.pdf)

Types of DBS check

There are four levels of checks, and the one you need will depend on the level of check you need for your course – our DBS team will advise you on this. The checks are: basic, standard, enhanced, or enhanced with barring lists.

Who needs a DBS check?

At Essex, the DBS check is mandatory for any student about to start specific courses that have a placement or require work-based learning.

Courses that might require a DBS check

Generally, if you’re a taking a course within one of the following departments, schools or centres, it’s likely you’ll need a DBS check:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Sports, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences
  • Some Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies
  • Some Biological Sciences
  • Some East 15 Acting School courses
  • Educational placements
  • Student Ambassador and Aim Higher Ambassador roles

Modules or projects that might require a DBS check

While your course and placement might not require a DBS check, some modules and research projects, such as if you’ll be working in close contact with children, will require one. Our DBS team will be able to help and advise you.

If you've been living outside the UK

If you’ve lived outside the UK in the last five years for six months or more, as well as the DBS check you will also need an overseas criminal record check or local police certificate – you will need to pay for these.

The document needed depends on where you were living. You’re strongly advised to get this document before you arrive to start your studies, to avoid any delay in starting your placement.

Once you have obtained your document, you will need to email a copy to us for verification – you need to email dbs@essex.ac.uk. When emailing your documents, can you please make sure they are in colour and give them a file name that includes your full name.

Please also note, if you don’t live in the United Kingdom, we’re not able to apply for your DBS certificate until you’ve started living in a UK address. Take a look at the UK Government’s guidelines about ID documents, and if you have any further questions please contact the DBS team at dbs@essex.ac.uk.

How to get a DBS check

In most cases, we will be in touch with you to let you know when to start the DBS check process before you start; the University’s DBS team is here to help you go through the DBS check process

DBS check expiry

Your DBS check will be valid for University use for four years. Your DBS certificate displays the date it was printed, but it doesn’t have a set expiry date because a conviction could be recorded at any time after it's been issued.

Keeping your DBS status up-to-date

It might be a good idea to join the DBS update service, which lets you keep your DBS certificate up-to-date as you continue your professional career, so you won’t have to pay for additional checks.

Courses that require the DBS update service

If you are studying social work or occupational therapy, signing up to the update service is a requirement of your course. To do this, register for the update service within 30 days of your certificate being issued. Our DBS team will be able to help you go through the process. You will need to renew your subscription each year for the duration of your course. If you do not register for the Update Service within 30 days, or your registration lapses, and you later attend a placement where this is a requirement, you will have to pay for a new DBS check, which will enable you to sign up to the Update service. 

Do you need a new DBS check?

The DBS update service lets other organisations check the DBS certificate you currently hold and whether it’s still valid. If you’ve joined the update service, our DBS team can check whether you can use your current certificate using our status check form, or whether you need a new one, as long as your certificate was issued on or after 17 June 2013.

If you’ve lost your certificate

Try not to! It's your responsibility to look after your original certificate. You can call the DBS centre on 0300 020 0190 to reissue a certificate, but you need to do this within 93 days of your certificate being issued. If your certificate can’t be reissued, you may need to complete and pay for a new check.

DBS check for a job or work experience

The University can only help with DBS checks when it’s related to your course, so if you need one for a new job or work experience, please contact your new employer to organise the check.


The DBS was established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and merges the functions previously carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). The University of Essex processes criminal record applications for students and members of staff through a company called Atlantic Data Ltd. Both staff and students complete the DBS check application online using the Disclosures Manager system. To find out more please read the University’s policy and procedure on DBS checks (.pdf)

Any questions?

You may have questions about the DBS check, perhaps involving some sensitivity. Our helpful, friendly DBS team is on-hand to provide support and guidance, so please get in touch if you need some help.

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