Checking Adults Who Work With Children – What People Can Get Wrong

Checking adults who work with children – what people can get wrong

In recent weeks my inbox had been full of enquiries concerning matters to do with safer recruitment, the single central record and all things to do with disclosure and barring checks. These matters are one area of safeguarding where I consistently encounter a high level of misunderstanding in the children’s workforce. It seems very easy for employers create their own practice which isn’t strictly necessary, compliant with guidance, or even legal. Frustratingly, I think one reason for that might be that the statutory and non-statutory guidance provided for employers on these matters is sometimes unnecessarily opaque. I have been delivering training on the single central record and safer recruitment for many years now and have developed in my knowledge and skills throughout that time. I have spent many, many hours poring over the statutory guidance and non-statutory advice and other supporting documents to help make sense of this complex field. I think it’s a good time to share some of the common mistakes and queries that have emerged during that time.

Most of the information below is cross referenced to Part 3 – entitled ‘Safer Recruitment’ – of the key statutory document ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ 2023 (KCSIE 23) which is aimed at registered settings, particularly schools. It’s also the gold standard of practice when it comes to other establishments that work with children. I propose that all members of the children’s workforce involved in safer recruitment, the administration of personnel records and safeguarding leaders reads and rereads this part of the guidance.

  1. Not making proportionate decisions

Many employers tackle recruitment with the belief that the more checking the better. This approach is completely wrong. Guidance is clear that employers ought to be making proportionate decisions regarding recruitment and selection. The most common reason in my experience that over checking of people takes place is when employers fail to really understand what regulated activity is. Only staff and volunteers in regulated activity should have an enhanced DBS check with barred list check. If the role isn’t regulated activity, you could be over checking, which is not legal.

  1. Not understanding regulated activity

What then is regulated activity? Regulated activity (RA) is very clearly defined in KCSIE, but there is an aspect of it that is down to professional judgment. Simply put, RA is regular (‘once a week or more often, or 4 or more days in a 30-day period’), involves contact with children (‘teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children, or providing advice or guidance on well-being, or driving a vehicle only for children’), possibly in a ‘specified place’ (school, children’s home or childcare premises) and carried out whilst ‘unsupervised’. Supervision is defined as something that should be “reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure the protection of children’ (KCSIE 23). This means that people who are in RA do not need to be supervised to be trusted to work with children, which justifies the highest level of checking of them. It’s that final aspect, the supervision aspect of RA, that involves a judgement on behalf of the employer. What exactly is a reasonable amount of supervision for those adults who haven’t undergone the highest level of checking to ensure children are protected? To make it easier for schools, as all schools are deemed specified places, every member of school staff will be in RA and therefore must have an enhanced DBS check with barred list check. It’s only volunteers (including governors) where a judgement needs to be made regarding whether they are in RA and the question arises about reasonable supervision of those who aren’t.

  1. Not understanding DBS certificates

DBS certificates can contain extremely sensitive information and are the property of the person they relate to. Employers should not be photocopying and keeping copies of DBS certificates in personnel files as routine. Only for good reason should copies be kept, and then only for the maximum of six months before being destroyed. If a DBS check contains sensitive information, it can be referred to in a risk assessment that the employer must draw up and store in a personnel file that will evidence the decision made to employ, despite the criminal record (important: a criminal records regarding RA is never ‘spent’, but employees cannot simply ban all employees with criminal records, they must make a considered decision for each appointment). DBS certificates should not be shared with one employer to another – with one exception. If an agency or third party (supply) staff member has a DBS check that contains any matter or information, the school must obtain a copy from the agency. Otherwise, settings should receive written assurance that any person working on their premises has had the appropriate DBS check, and then cross reference the photographic evidence of identity of the person who turns up against those names supplied. DBS certificates produced by new staff carried out by their former employer are acceptable (as long as there has been no break in employment of longer than 3 months), but the new employer must carry out an additional Barred List check before they start working in RA.

  1. Continuing to check for disqualification by association

Non-residential registered settings like schools should not be checking their staff for disqualification by association (a check on the family members that their staff); these checks have now been phased out. Evidence of past checks still held in hard copy or on a single central record should be destroyed or deleted. Disqualification by association only applies now to professionals providing care in their domestic premises, like childminders, where their family members will come into contact with children.

  1. Not checking for disqualification from childcare

Those staff deemed in childcare (early years, breakfast and after school clubs, and those helping in those services when they needed) in a school must be checked to see if they have been disqualified from childcare. This check could theoretically throw up issues that may not show up in a DBS check (though from experience this is rare). To carry out this check, most schools simply provide a standard tickbox form that asks staff if they are aware of anything that can disqualify them from childcare. If they tick ‘no’, that will suffice.

  1. Overdoing the single central record

The single central record (SCR) is an important safeguarding tool that brings together key information about the safety of adults working with children in a setting in one place. It is one of the first aspects of a school’s work that will be inspected by Ofsted when they visit, so it’s vital it is up to date and compliant with statute. Registered settings are, however, only required to record on the SCR checks made on staff working in the setting at that time (which does include agency and third party staff, and students on salaried routes). Staff who have left employment should be deleted. Checks on volunteers, including governors, need not be recorded on the SCR, but often are. There is no point in recording the numbers of DBS certificates of visiting staff (contractors or other service providers) on an SCR if the setting hasn’t actually seen the DBS certificate – just the fact that the setting has been assured that visiting staff have been checked by their employer will suffice.

  1. Checking all volunteers as if they are all in regulated activity

Employers shouldn’t have a blanket approach to checking all volunteers as if they were staff in RA, this is not legal. Only volunteers in RA should have an enhanced DBS with barred list check. Other volunteers may not have a DSB check at all – for instance, parent volunteers for a sports day – or they might have an enhanced DBS check without a barred list check. This latter level of checking will be suitable to for volunteers who may be engaged with children at times, but who are supervised (for example, a school governor who is not in RA). The role of the volunteer should be risk assessed to determine what level of checking is suitable to ensure the check is proportionate. The fact that this risk assessment has been carried out can be recorded on the SCR.

  1. Routine checking existing staff

Registered settings need not be routinely checking their existing staff and volunteers throughout their employment; this is disproportionate, time consuming and expensive. A DBS certificate has no expiration date. If a setting has good cause to carry out another check (for instance, if there has been a change of role or a cause for concern), they can do so using the DBS update service, which employees can consent to joining at the point of recruitment (but employers cannot demand that they do). If employers do want to regularly update the information they hold on all staff and volunteers, they can issue them with an ‘Annual Declaration’ form which gives the opportunity to declare any criminal activity over the last year. In addition, a robust safeguarding Code of Conduct should ask staff and volunteers to make their employer directly aware of the activity at the time it happened.

  1. Overchecking visitors

Most schools are aware that they should not be checking visitors such as children’s relatives attending events at the school like a sports day. On the other hand, I have found that many schools are asking visiting professionals for their DBS certificates at reception as a matter of course. Guidance is clear that registered settings should check the ID of visitors who are there in a professional capacity but ‘be assured that the visitor has had the appropriate DBS check’ (KCSIE 23) – this should mean that the schools should be assured that the check has been carried out by their employer, rather than having eyes on the actual DBS certificate itself. If the setting doesn’t have that assurance, headteachers and principals should use their professional judgement about the need to escort or supervise the visitor during their visit, remembering that this judgement should be reasonable and proportionate.

  1. Overchecking staff from other settings

Recently, the government reissued its advice for groups and organisations working with schools, clarifying what they should have in place in terms of effective safeguarding to ensure that children were safe in their care:

Keeping children safe during community activities, after-school clubs and tuition: non-statutory guidance for providers running out-of-school settings

The advice is clear that organisations should be carrying out DBS checks on their own staff and volunteers (not the schools they are working in). Whilst the advice also says that service providers must also comply with requirements that a school, schools should always ensure that any checks they carry out are proportionate.

I hope this clarifies a few things! If you still have questions, please contact me on, or, better still, sign up to my next online course on the Single Central Record on Wednesday 29 November 2023, by emailing

Best wishes,
Mandy Parry

Note: If you are interested in attending my three hour online course on the Single Central Record Tuesday 29 November at 9.30am – 12.30pm, there is just enough time to apply! Please contact Shelley Brown of Delegated Services for more details:

For more information in the other courses I can deliver for you and your setting – including other Advanced Safeguarding courses running throughout the year – have a look on my website: