Adult First – What Is It and How Does it Work?

If you’ve never heard of Adult First, then you’re not alone. The DBS system is huge and complex, and there are lots of little pieces of legislation which are not well-publicised. Just to add to the confusion, the DBS constantly tweaks the system to make things quicker and more efficient. Not everyone can use the Adult First system, but if it applies to you it can be hugely beneficial.

Adult First and Barred Lists

An Adult First check just appears in very specific circumstances. Firstly, as with all standard disclosure and enhanced disclosure checks, the person has to be applying for the type of job which requires a check. In nearly all cases, the job will have something to do with caring for children, or vulnerable adults. Examples of these sorts of jobs could be working as a home carer, or in a school or nursery. This is the sort of job which doesn’t just involve a search of the person’s criminal record, but also a check of the Barred Lists.

There are two separate Barred Lists held by the Home Office in England and Wales. These used to be called “List 99” and you will still see that term on some websites. These lists contain the names of people who have been convicted of serious crimes. Usually, but not always, the convictions are for violent crimes, or offences of a sexual nature. At trial, the judge decides that the person poses such a risk that their name should be added to these lists. Usually the ban is for life, but the judge may decide to use a set period instead.

A person might be added to the Barred List for work with children, the list for work with adults, or both. These lists are not public, and can only be searched by the police or DBS. Someone who is on the Barred Lists is committing an offence by applying for a job which they know involves a search of the risk. Adult First only applies to the Adult List.

Applying for an Adult First Check

If you are really desperate to start work, and your employer is desperate to have you, they might decide to ask for the additional adult first check. This is always done in conjunction with an enhanced disclosure. If the check is clear, you can often start work under supervision while waiting for the full certificate. This is up to your employer though; they might want to wait for the full certificate. As there is an extra charge for the check of the Barred Lists, many employers decide not to bother.

The advantage however is that it’s often a lot quicker than an enhanced disclosure. If you’re living in an area where DBS checks take a long time, it might be useful though. Adult First, as the name suggests, can only be used for jobs which would involve working with vulnerable adults. Anyone who wants to work with children and needs an enhanced disclosure still needs to go through the full process.

Results of the Check

The results of the Adult First check will come through much more quickly than a disclosure certificate. This is part of the appeal of the system. However, they are also a lot less detailed than the full certificate. By law, there are only two responses which the DBS will give on the reply. These will be either:

  • Registered Body must wait for the DBS certificate


  • No match exists for this person on the current adults barred list.

Now, it’s natural to assume that the first response indicates that there is a problem. That may be true, but there may be other explanations. As this is supposed to be a quick search, it might be that someone with a similar name is on the Barred List. The “must wait” instruction could be interpreted as “we need to look more deeply into this”. Recruiters are within their rights to refuse employment at this stage, but most will choose to stick to the recommendations and wait.

Similarly, the second statement can’t be interpreted as the candidate’s record is clean. They may have a criminal record, but not be on the barred list. Therefore, although it is safe to start work, the DBS recommends supervision until the full DBS certificate arrives in the post.