A guide to DBS and PVG checks for volunteers - Social Good Connect

A guide to DBS and PVG checks for volunteers

6 September 2022

Volunteering for a charity or organisation has numerous benefits: you can find roles in the things you enjoy doing, meet new people and expand your network, and of course, make a difference in your local community.

Although many of the opportunities on our platform are quick-apply, many roles require some form of background check due to the sensitive nature of the role and the legal requirements around it. This includes a DBS check or PVG check, which involves looking through an individual’s criminal record.

What is a DBS Check?

A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is a way for organisations to review an applicant’s criminal records. In the case of volunteering, these checks are used to decide whether the person is suitable for the volunteer role. When working with vulnerable groups, such as children or people with disabilities, charities need assurance that the applicant is suitable for working in a close capacity with their clients.

There are four different levels of DBS checks you might need to know about:

The 4 Different Types of DBS Checks

A Basic Check. This is an entry-level check and shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions.

A Standard Check. Much like the basic check, except the standard check shows both spent and unspent convictions.

An Enhanced Check. This shows everything the standard check does, as well as any information in the possession of the local police considered relevant to the position.

An Enhanced Check With Barred Lists. The highest level of criminal background check, this shows the same as the enhanced check plus whether the volunteer is on any list barred from the role or position.

What is a PVG check? 

If you’re based in Scotland, you may be subject to a PVG check for certain volunteering roles. The Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme is managed by Disclosure Scotland and ensures that those who work with children and vulnerable people are regulated.

When you apply to the PVG scheme, a criminal record check will be undertaken. The scheme then regularly checks you. If you’re unsuitable for a certain role, you’ll be considered for a listing assessment. This means Disclosure Scotland will then request the following information: 

  • information about a conviction or other relevant information from the police
  • information about a conviction from the Scottish Court Service
  • a referral from your former employer or regulatory body

You should let Disclosure Scotland know if your personal information such as home address, job or name changes, so they can update their records. Under the PVG scheme, you will have a duty to report any potentially harmful behaviour that goes on in regulated workplaces. 

Which Volunteering Roles Require DBS or PVG Checks?

A basic or standard DBS or PVG check can be applied to a number of volunteering roles, provided the role meets the definition of a volunteer as stated by The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations. This is ‘any individual engaged in an activity which involves spending time, unpaid, doing something which aims to benefit some third party and not a close relative’.

If the role is linked to children or another vulnerable group, volunteers will require an enhanced check.

You will not require a DBS check if you receive payments or benefits for your role, or if the volunteer position is part of a work course or placement.

How to Apply for a DBS Check

In an individual capacity, you can only request a basic check for yourself. This comes at a small fee. However, there is a special volunteer DBS check which is free, regardless of level. For PVG, there is a fee involved by typically this is something that the nonprofit pays for.

It is important to note that volunteer DBS checks cannot be logged by individuals. These applications need to be submitted directly by the charity or organisation instead.

An online DBS check usually takes between 1 and 5 days to process, and your results are shared as soon as they are complete. A certificate is delivered in the post thereafter, and this can take up to six weeks to arrive. Most PVG checks will be processed within 14 days.

What Volunteering Can Do for You

For more information and inspiration on what volunteering can do for you in a personal and professional capacity, visit the Social Good Connect impact page.

And for more on how we can help you help others, speak to us today.

Keep reading our next blog to discover what it means to DIY employee volunteering, and if a managed service is right for you.

Join 100s of people and hear Caroline’s Thursday Thoughts.

Caroline has made it her life’s work to help people make more meaningful decisions to support their communities and she’s learned some golden nuggets along the way!

So, join Caroline each week for her ‘Thursday Thoughts’ on all things people, planet, philanthropy or purpose all served with sprinkle of fun (but unfortunately no prosecco) to inspire you.