Can Volunteers Get Free DBS Checks?
More and more employers are requesting potential employees to get a DBS check certificate.
And it’s not just for paid employment. Organisations that take on volunteers have the same duties and responsibilities to make sure that vulnerable groups are safeguarded. Even voluntary organisations that don’t work with children or vulnerable adults might require a criminal record DBS check to vet volunteers for roles that require financial responsibility, for example.
But, as voluntary roles are unpaid, do applicants or organisations still have to pay or are DBS checks for volunteers free?
How much do DBS checks cost?
The cost of a DBS check depends on the level of the check. At the time of writing the following prices apply to DBS checks:
For voluntary, unpaid roles, the fees for Standard or Enhanced DBS checks can be waived, as these are the only levels required by law. A Basic check is not enough for regulated activities, therefore the voluntary organisation will only usually request a higher level check if needed. There is usually a small administration fee for volunteer DBS checks to cover running costs.
If you are considering volunteering and want to find out whether you are eligible to get a free standard or enhanced DBS check, you need to check whether you meet the necessary criteria.
Criteria for a free volunteer DBS check
A volunteer, or potential volunteer, will only qualify for a free DBS check if they meet the following criteria:
- The role must fit the definition of voluntary service defined by The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations 2002.
- The voluntary role must benefit a third-party or third-parties, not close friends or relatives.
- The role must involve no remuneration or compensation, apart from the payment of travel expenses or other approved legitimate expenses accrued in the pursuit of the role.
- The role must also be classified as a regulated activity which requires a standard or enhanced DBS (i.e. working with children or vulnerable adults).
Any request that meets the following criteria will NOT be eligible for a free DBS check if the applicant:
- Benefits, or will benefit, financially from the role for which the DBS application is being made.
- Receives, or will receive, any payments other than travel or other acceptable expenses.
- Is in a work-placement such as an internship or other unpaid work experience.
- Is on a training course or training placement that requires working in the specific role.
- Is working as an unpaid apprentice or trainee that is likely to lead to a full-time position.
If all the criteria is met, the organisation can go ahead and apply for a free standard or enhanced DBS check, remembering that there may be a small administration fee.
If it turns out retrospectively that the criteria above was not met, the organisation that applied on the individual’s behalf may be liable to pay the usual DBS check fee.
Applying for a DBS check online
It’s never been easier to get a DBS check carried out, either as an individual or an organisation applying on a person’s behalf. That’s because the whole process can now be carried out online.
An individual can only apply for a Basic DBS check themselves, and this won’t be eligible for a free volunteer’s DBS check.
To get a free volunteer’s standard or enhanced check carried out, the voluntary organisation needs to apply on the person’s behalf. This too can be carried out online.
Online applications have several advantages over handwritten applications, the main one being it is far less likely for mistakes to be made, and if they are, they can be easily rectified. This is one of the main reasons that online DBS checks are so much faster than postal DBS checks.
Standard and enhanced DBS checks are usually free for volunteers that meet the specific criteria, with only a small administration fee applied in some cases.
The main criteria is that the DBS applicant is not receiving any financial payment from the organisation.