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 have applied to study one of the courses listed below, you are required to register for the DBS Update Service in order to meet the entry requirements for your course.

  • BA Social Work
  • MA Social Work
  • BSc Occupational Therapy
  • MSc Occupational Therapy
  • BSc Speech and Language Therapy
  • MSc Speech and Language Therapy

How to Register for the Update Service

You only have a small window of opportunity to register for the Update Service so it is really important that you do this as soon as possible.

  • If you are in the process of getting a DBS check you will need your application reference number. You will be sent your application number by email after the DBS has confirmed receipt of your application.
  • If you already have a DBS certificate you will need your certificate number – you must register for the Update Service within 30 days of the certificate being issued.

A subscription to the Update Service lasts for one year. It is your responsibility to maintain your subscription for the duration of your course. If you do not register in time, or do not renew your subscription before it ends, you will need to apply for a new DBS check to enable you to join the Update Service and will be charged for the cost of the DBS check. Any delays in the DBS check process may impact your ability to go out on placement so it is important that you maintain your registration to the Update Service.

You will receive further information and reminders about registering for the Update Service from our online DBS Supplier, Complete Background Screening.

Once you have registered for the Update Service, Complete Background Screening will monitor your subscription and carry out an annual status check against for the duration of your studies. This ensures that you disclosure certificate remains accurate and up to date.   

If you have any queries about the Update Service you can find out more information on the GOV.UK web pages. Alternatively you can contact Complete Background Screening for additional advice and guidance – telephone 01443 799900 or email UpdateService@cbscreening.co.uk.

Registration Costs and Refund Process 

The Update Service costs £13 per year. You will need to pay this cost initially but the University will refund this once you have confirmed your subscription and you have registered for the year. If you would like to request a refund, please send your bank account number and sort code to the University’s DBS Team along with a screenshot of your Update Service account confirming your subscription.

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 Costs for apprenticeship students

In accordance with the Apprenticeship Funding Rules apprenticeship students should not incur any cost relating to the DBS process or the DBS Update Service, where appropriate.  

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 Complete Background Screening. Both staff and students complete the DBS check application online. 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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