DBS Update – How it Works

We’re going to hazard a guess that you’re not one of those odd people who actually enjoys paperwork. Form-filling isn’t something which fills most people with joy, is it? If you’re in an industry which requires a DBS check, you’re probably used to paperwork. If you’re fed up of filling forms in, showing your identification to your employer and then waiting for your DBS certificate to arrive, haven’t you you asked yourself if there’s a better way? Well, for most of us there is indeed a better way. It’s called DBS Update, and it cuts out a lot of the paperwork and waiting around. Here’s how it all works.

What’s the idea with DBS Update?

In order to understand what’s so great about DBS update, you need to first look at the other way of doing things. Usually, you apply for a DBS check in connection with a job. Your employer asks you to complete the form, and show them documents which prove who you are, and where you live. The form then goes off for checking. After two or three weeks, you get a paper certificate in the post. What happens if you then leave that employer, and move on somewhere else, in the same industry? You have to apply for a new DBS check. The certificate isn’t transferrable, and companies cover themselves by requesting new checks with each new employee. It’s time-consuming, and a hassle.

DBS Update was created as an attempt to change all that. It’s about recognising that some people change jobs a lot. Being able to access your DBS information in another way can cut down on the time you are out of work, and just make things a lot more streamlined. It’s not for everyone though, so it’s also important to understand the limitations.

How DBS Update works

The idea is that DBS Update is an online database rather than a paper-based certificate. The problem with the paper certificate is that once printed, there’s no way of updating it with new information. This is why employers ask for a new check if you switch job. The Update database is dynamic, and will be instantly updated with any new information about you which is added to the police computer. It’s never out of date, and always current.

So if you swap jobs, you just need to log into the system using the password and login details which you get when you subscribe. You can check your information, or share the details with your employer. It cuts down delays, and means you can start work right away. From an employer’s point of view, it means they can get you into work right away and it cuts down on their administration costs.

Isn’t it expensive?

There is an annual charge for being a member of the DBS Update service. You’ll stay a member of the scheme for as long as you keep paying the subscription. The cost is a lot less than getting a repeat DBS certificate. When you apply for your first DBS check, just tick the box saying that you’d like to join the update service at the same time. Although nobody likes paying out money when they don’t have to, think of it as an investment. If it means that you can start work and start earning more quickly, isn’t it money well spent?


There are various limitations to the service though which is why it isn’t for everyone. If you’re in the sort of job where you don’t move around much and just have a new DBS every three or five years, it’s not worth the money. The DBS Update service only applies to checks at the same level. For example, if you’re a healthcare worker or work in a school, you’ll need an enhanced disclosure. If you join the Update service, you can use this in other roles which require an enhanced disclosure, such as helping out with Brownies or driving elderly people to hospital appointments. You wouldn’t, however, be able to join Update as a standard or basic member, then use the database for a job needing enhanced checks.

But if you’re a carer, or a tutor, or someone working in healthcare who swaps employers a lot, Update could save a lot of time and effort.