DBS, PVG and AccessNI

Most of us will have heard of the Disclosure and Barring Service, often abbreviated to DBS. That’s the name of the organisation in England and Wales which runs police checks. It used to be called the Criminal Records Bureau, or CRB. However, what isn’t as well known is that the DBS only organises checks for people living in England and Wales. If you live in Scotland, the body is called Disclosure Scotland. In Northern Ireland, you’ll apply through AccessNI. So how do these organisations differ?

Disclosure Scotland and PVG

If you live in Scotland, you’ll be asked to go to Disclosure Scotland for your police check. Disclosure Scotland is a Scottish Government body. The organisation’s head office is in Glasgow city centre. Disclosure Scotland offers four different types of police checking. The basic, standard and enhanced disclosures are broadly similar to those in England, allowing for slight differences in Scots law. The Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme is one of the best-known. This type of disclosure, as the name suggests, is about protecting children and vulnerable adults. Although there are differences, the nearest equivalent is the DBS Update system.

Once you have signed up to the PVG scheme, you can use their PVG number to access subsequent checks more quickly. Just like in England, it is the employer who drives the police check process, not the applicant. The application process is similar too. Many applicants still fill in a paper form, then show their proof of identity. Disclosure Scotland then runs the checks and sends a certificate in the post. Just like the DBS certificate, there is no expiry date on Disclosure Scotland checks.


Across the water in Northern Ireland, their police checking body is called AccessNI. This is a department of the devolved government in Northern Ireland, based in Belfast. Just as in Scotland, England and Wales, there are the three levels of checking. Individuals can only apply for basic checks. Employers and other registered bodies can ask employees for standard or enhanced checks depending on the job. Unlike the system in other parts of the UK, Northern Ireland gives the option for having your identity verified by a police officer in a police station instead of to a designated person in the registered body. Basic checks can be done online, or through the post. If you are applying for other types of check, only the online route is available.

How do I know who to apply to?

Employers and applicants can’t pick and choose which body to apply through. If you live in Scotland, you have to apply through Disclosure Scotland. In the past, Disclosure Scotland used to offer basic checks to people living elsewhere. This is no longer the case. If you’ve moved between the different parts of the UK, you should still apply where you are currently living. Each body can ask for information from police forces across the UK. Even if you’re not sure what to do, your employer should be aware of the process. Each separate organisation also has a helpline for more complex queries.