The following information outlines the law on DBS checks for freelance children's entertainers and is taken from a guide issued by British Actors Equity.
For further information please see https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/disclosure-and-barring-service
Disclosure and Barring Service
A guide for Children's Entertainers and freelance entertainers
What is the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)?
The DBS is a checking service for employers who are legally entitled to ask about an applicant’s criminal background. The service was launched on 1st December 2012 effectively replacing the system of Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks that was previously in place. The new body is a merger between the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
How does this affect Children's Entertainers?
In relation to children, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 defines ‘Regulated Activity’ as activity which a barred person must not do. The definition of this activity is much more tightly defined than it used to be and only those who regularly carry out largely unsupervised activities with children or vulnerable adults would need to be checked. Most freelance work in schools would not meet this criteria as the work is generally supervised so there should be no need for a check. This would also go for a lot of other work connected to local authorities and the public sector in general. Checks have never been needed for work in private homes or for general children’s party work and that remains the same.
What if an employer says I need a check?
There are some roles undertaken by Equity members which do constitute ‘Regulated activity’ and in that case a check would be needed. If that is the case then the employer, you would expect, would organise and pay for that on your behalf. Likewise for some volunteering roles a check would be needed and the charity or organisation should also be able to undertake the check and there would not normally be a charge for this.
It may, however, be the case that an employer (or agent) is asking for a check because they misunderstand the rules and a check is in fact not required. The employer could well be breaking the law by requesting such a check and that should be discussed with them if you feel you do not need one for the role. You can contact Equity for advice if you have a problem with this.
A number of employers who were registered with Equity’s Job Information Service used to request a CRB then a DBS check but many, on discussion with the member of staff concerned, dropped this requirement.
If an employer says you need a check and will not get it done for you then, as with any previous system, an individual cannot get a check done on themselves. This is because the basic premise of a check is to ask an individual about their criminal background and it would then be an individual asking themselves!
Through the Disclosure and Barring Service covering England and Wales there is no system whereby an individual can directly obtain a certificate themselves. Through Disclosure Scotland, however, an individual can apply for a basic level disclosure for the fee of £25. This shows only unspent convictions throughout the UK and can easily be applied for online. Some employers are now asking for individuals to provide this for many different types of work across the UK. Other than for certain roles employers are not allowed to ask about spent convictions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 but can ask about unspent convictions and this certificate backs up the applicant’s statement. It is expected that these certificates will become available through the DBS in the future.