Faye Harding, CEO, The FE People

Why the DBS Update Service is a clear solution to a sector safeguarding risk 

When working in the further education sector, an enhanced DBS check is one of the most essential documents you should have readily available for new employers, as supported by a recent LinkedIn poll where 74% of industry professionals stated that a current DBS check is essential. However, there is a growing concern for the lack of guidance within the sector on how often these periodic checks should take place and if the checks carried out are adequate enough to sufficiently safeguard students.

Ofsted’s current guidance states that an enhanced DBS check should be in place for all new starters within the education sector, however there is ambiguity on the time period that a DBS certificate is valid for in relation to the sector. Whilst best practice states that DBS checks should be reviewed ‘periodically’, there is no clarity on what a suitable time period is for renewals.

As a result, further education providers have had to implement their own policies on what they deem acceptable which has led to disparity throughout the sector, and some providers accepting DBS checks that were issued anything from a few months ago to a few years ago. This means that there is a potential safeguarding risk across the sector in teaching staff, tutors and those with direct access to students and young people. It is imperative that both education providers and regulatory bodies recognise the need for detailed guidelines to be put in place to ensure that all employers, staff, freelancers and volunteers are subject to the same standards of vetting checks.

A clear solution for the sector is to ensure that all employees, both temporary and permanent, are subscribed to the DBS Update Service; an online subscription service regulated by the government that allows any employer with the individual’s permission to perform an up to date check on their criminal record.

The service costs £13 a year and enables those working in the sector to be able to move from one position to another with the ease that their DBS check is already in place and current. Checking a certificate on the platform takes a matter of steps and minutes for an organisation to carry out to determine if the DBS is the same at the time of issue or if there have been any changes. It also allows for organisations to carry out ongoing reviews of existing staff members’ DBS records to ensure that they remain valid and suitable to be working in their positions.

A recent LinkedIn poll carried out with an audience of 20,000 further education professionals found 74% of votes agreeing that having a DBS certificate subscribed to the Update Service was essential for the safety of the individual, the employer and the students.

Umair Khan, Assistant Director at Wise Origin College, recognises the value of the DBS Update Service:

“A huge issue within recruitment in the sector at the moment is the delay in new staff members and freelancers being ready to work if their checks aren’t up to date, sometimes meaning that the college is left with little to no team members as we wait for DBS certificates to come through.

“The DBS Update Service is a reliable source to ensure that all certificates are fresh and live for education professionals. It saves a lot of time and money for businesses and certifies that their staff are all up to date with their checks. The service benefits both employees and employers, whether that is through a freelance career or education providers - everyone can benefit from keeping their checks new, no matter which perspective you look at it from.”

In order for individuals to register their certificate on the update service, they need to do so within 14 days of issue. This means in the majority of cases that they will need to undergo the DBS application process again in order to obtain a valid certificate to subscribe. The clear benefit is that once this step is completed and their annual subscription payments continue, they will have a continuous, live DBS certificate, available to any relevant parties to perform an instant check.

With the ongoing need for freelance and temporary staff within the further education sector, it is clear that a solution, such as the DBS Update Service, needs to be implemented nationwide in order to speed up the recruitment process, as well as offer assurance to the education provider in who they are hiring.

Faye Harding, CEO, The FE People

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