Do Coaches, Instructors & Volunteers Need Background & DBS Checks?

Background checks for coaches, instructors and volunteers (DBS)

Who needs a DBS check?

Most people know that, if you’re going to work with children or young people, you need a DBS check.

But what if you’re working with adults? Or what if you’re a sports coach, or an instructor? Or a volunteer at a charity or a sports club?

This is where things get murky. Not everybody knows the rules.

So let’s take a quick look at who needs a DBS check, and who doesn’t.

What is a DBS Check?

DBS stands for Disclosure and Barring Service. It’s a branch of the Government that maintains a database of criminal convictions and conditional cautions. If you run a DBS check on a staff, a coach, or a volunteer, you’re basically checking to see if anything in their history might present a safeguarding issue should they be allowed to work with young people or adults at risk.

There are four levels of DBS checks. A basic check simply contains details of unspent convictions and cautions. But an enhanced check will contain a lot more information, and it’s required for people working with children or adults in certain circumstances.

You can read more about the various levels of DBS checks, and what they involve, on the Government’s website.

So Do Coaches, Instructors and Volunteers Need DBS Checks?

Regardless of the individual and the sort of work they’re doing, only people based in England and Wales are eligible for DBS checks.

Anyone can apply for a basic DBS check. But if you think you need a more detailed level of check, it’s your legal responsibility to find out whether the individual is eligible.

How do you decide what level of check you need to request for people involved in your organisation?

You need to understand:

  • Who your organisation provides services for – young people, adults, or both?
  • What the role involves.
  • How often it’s performed.
  • When you need to consider if it’s supervised work.
  • Where the role is performed.

Let’s take a closer look at how you might decide if your coaches, volunteers or instructors are eligible for checks.

Background Checks for Coaches, Instructors and Volunteers (DBS)

If your coaches, volunteers or instructors are working with children or young people, then they’re almost certainly eligible for a DBS check.

But if they work with adults, it’s a bit more complicated. Usually, coaches, instructors and volunteers will only be eligible for an enhanced check if they’re working with adults who are receiving a certain sort of health or social care. And of course, the specific type of activity matters, too.

We’ve got a handy flowchart for working with adults in England and Wales. Find it here.

You’ll find a great eligibility checking tool on the Government’s website. Find it here.

This link also contains resources for organisations based in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

DBS Safeguarding Outreach specialist Linda Hackett explored this issue in much greater depth at our 2019 Safeguarding Adults in Sports & Activity Seminar. You can view the slides from her presentation here.

We also adapted Linda’s presentation for our July 2019 Safeguarding Bulletin. Access it here, and head for page 33.

Finally, you’ll find some detailed DBS eligibility guidance on the government’s website.