It is not a legal requirement for self-employed private tutors to obtain a DBS check in the UK. However, many tutors working with children or vulnerable people often wish to have one anyway to give their clients peace of mind.

As of 17th June 2013, The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) merged to become the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

A DBS certificate is an official document proving that there is no known reason why an individual may not work with children or vulnerable adults after a background screening for relevant criminal convictions in police records. You must be 16 or over to have a DBS check.

DBS checks are often required for those who work with children or vulnerable adults as well as volunteers as verification that they have no criminal history which may make their presence unsuitable.

For qualified teachers, it is obviously mandatory to have a background check. Because tutors also often work with children or vulnerable people, it's quite common for them to obtain some sort of background check, too, since the nature of the work is very similar to that of a teacher at in a school.

However, although there is no legislation to say that tutors are obliged to obtain a DBS check, some online tutoring jobs and tutoring agencies will request that all of their tutors are DBS checked before they begin work. This extra precaution is often taken by tutoring companies in order to ensure the security of their organisation as well as to uphold their high personal and professional standards.

The benefits of holding a DBS certificate, as with other certifications or qualifications, include making students, parents and tutors feel safe and secure, and consequently attracting more students to your service.

Another advantage is that DBS certificates never expire, so although the more rigorous ones - the ones that involve looking at Barred lists can only be requested by eligible employers, once you have received your certificate under a company, you can continue to use it elsewhere, be it your next place of work or as a sole-trader providing home tutoring services.

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Which checks are available for private tutors?
Some tutoring agencies require DBS checks for tutors working with children. Source: Visualhunt

Am I Eligible to Apply for a DBS Check as a Tutor?

Everyone over the age of 16 can apply for a Basic-level DBS check that reveals 'unspent' convictions. As convictions for offences against vulnerable persons (or offences for which your spent more than four years in custody) will never become 'spent', you really only need this Basic level DBS.

Only employers and licensing bodies may request deeper scrutiny into your background by applying for an extended check or such a check with Barred List - meaning they wish to see if you have been permanently barred from working with vulnerable groups.

Tutoring jobs provide attractive tutoring jobs Toronto for ex teachers, and if you work for a tutoring agency, it is up to them to decide whether you will need a DBS check or not to work for their company. If they do require a DBS check, this can be organised and applied for through the agency.

However, if you are self-employed and the Basic DBS check is not sufficient for your purposes, you will have to go with one of these ways to get the certification you need:

  • Through an organisation that has contracted your services, for example, a private tutoring agency that takes on freelance and self-employed tutors. Most tutoring agencies are legally required to have their employees DBS certified if they work with children, so being hired by an agency could be your ticket to a DBS check - and you can still operate as a sole trader.
  • Disclosure Scotland is the sister organisation to the Disclosure and Barring Service, and checks all the same databases. You can apply for a basic disclosure through Disclosure Scotland if you live in Scotland, England or Wales. This is the closest option to a DBS check for a self-employed private tutor in the UK and is the simplest way to get some kind of check that will satisfy both yourself and your clients.

You might wonder about requesting a Subject Access Request (SAR) from your local police station.

SARs represent an individual's right to request any data held on them by an organisation or company. Subject Access Requests are based on a person's right to access their own data and requests are completed for free. However, a SAR is not suitable to qualify you to for positions that call for a DBS.

To apply or learn more about the process of Subject Access Requests, get in touch with your local police and speak with the Data Protection team.

Be aware that obtaining a basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland is not the same as requesting a DBS check and you should not advertise that you have a DBS if, in fact, you are merely in possession of a SAR or a certificate from Disclosure Scotland.

There truly is no good alternative to the DBS for self-employed one on one tutors looking to give their prospective clients peace of mind.

If you do obtain a DBS check, whether it's through your agency or an umbrella body, the type of checks you will need may be pre-determined. If not, you might have to choose which type of DBS check you wish to have for yourself.

An umbrella body is a registered company which can apply for and give access to DBS checks on behalf of your business or organisation.

You can find umbrella bodies to match your requirements and business circumstances on the government website.

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How Can I Obtain a DBS Check for Tutor Jobs?

If you've had no convictions for anything serious, a Basic DBS would be sufficient to work as an independent tutor.

If you want to apply for a higher level of scrutiny than a Basic DBS check, your request will have to go through your employer or somebody who has contracted your services as a self-employed tutor (if you're working for a tutoring company as a freelancer, for example).

To obtain a DBS check through your employer, there are a few simple steps:

  1. The employer must get an application form from the DBS or an umbrella body.
  2. This form will be filled out by the applicant and returned to the employer, along with the appropriate documents which provide proof of identity.
  3. The employer will then send off the completed application to the DBS or the umbrella body.
  4. The Disclosure and Barring Service will then finally send the official certificate to the applicant. The employer must ask the applicant to see this certificate once it has been obtained. The employer can check the applicant’s DBS certificate online if the applicant has subscribed to the DBS update service.

So, how long does it take for a DBS application to be processed?

There is no set time-frame or deadline for DBS applications to be processed, and due to the highly variable nature of each application, some do take more time than others. Although the average amount of time taken for a standard DBS check to be completed is 8 days, this is only a mean average, so some take significantly less time, while others take far longer than this.

Applications for enhanced DBS checks vary even further due to the added complexity, with some applications taking up to six months to process.

However, it should be noted that delays in the processing times of DBS applications are not always down to the findings of the Disclosure and Barring Service, nor the background of the applicant; applications for DBS checks frequently take longer to process if the information entered on the application is inaccurate. Problems arise when the information on the new application does not match that of a previous application or other documents provided to the Disclosure and Barring Service - so check, double check and then triple check your forms before you submit them!

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What Types of Criminal Records Checks Exist?

There are four types of criminal record checks which each cover different amounts of information:

Type of DBS CheckPriceWhat's Included
The only DBS check you may request yourself
£23Only information on 'unspent' convictions
Standard£26Check for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
Enhanced£44Same as that standard check + any additional information held by local police that is considered relevant to the role being applied for
Enhanced with List Checks£44Same as the enhanced check + check of the DBS barred lists

There is no guarantee as to how long your DBS check will take to be completed. The time it takes to process the check depends on the level of the check required, the accuracy of the details provided, and the police forces that need to be involved in the check. For instance, if the checking of barred lists is part of the DBS check, the application process can take longer.

An employer can only apply for a barred list check for specific roles; it is a criminal offence to ask for a check of the barred list for any other roles. Barred lists are lists of people who have been barred from either working with children or from working with vulnerable adults and are therefore not to be granted the right to work with either of these groups.

For tutors working with children under 18 outside of a school on a regular basis, an employer can request an enhanced check with a children's barred list check.

A bonus advantage to obtaining a DBS check is not only that you will be permitted to work for an organisation that requires its employees to be checked, but also that your check will bring peace of mind to the parents of your prospective students, as your business as a private tutor will have been verified as safer than previously.

Be sure to mention if you have undergone a DBS check as part of your marketing efforts to find students. DBS checks, while intended to prove someone's suitability to work with children and vulnerable adults, also come with many other advantages. For instance, even if you have no teaching experience, being DBS checked will show that you care about the well-being of students and the peace of mind of their parents whilst being passionate about helping children improve academically.

Taking the time to get a DBS check will demonstrate a level of seriousness for your role as a one to one educator - a quality which will make you highly attractive to parents.

You can mention your DBS check on your posters and leaflets you distribute around your local community while trying to get your name out, as well as your online tutor adverts and business social media profiles.

Mentioning DBS checks is common practice within the tutoring community, and mentions of such security checks usually feature alongside major qualifications and achievements such as degrees and A-levels held by the tutor. For this reason, DBS checks are viewed as an asset by many, tutors and clients alike.

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What Documents Are Required for a DBS Check?

If applying for a Basic DBS check, the list of required documents is simple: your passport, your driver licence, your National Insurance number and all of the addresses you've lived at for the past five years (you will have to list the dates you lived there too, so be sure to have that information handy).

If an agency or employer is requesting the DBS, there are three different groups of documentation that may be requested; applicants must try to provide all the necessary documents.

The applicant must provide one document from Group 1, and two documents from Group 2a or 2b. At least one of these documents must show proof of the applicant’s current place of residence.

Here are the documents which come under each group:

  • Group 1 is primary identity documents, such as a passport, driving licence, birth certificate or adoption certificate.
  • Group 2a is trusted government documents, such as a driving license, birth certificate, firearms license, marriage certificate or a HM Forces ID card, for example.
  • Group 2b is financial and social history documents, such as a mortgage statement, utility bill, bank statement, credit card statement, P45, P60, work permit or Visa, for example.

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A DBS certificate applicant must provide original documents, not copies, when proving their identity.

Should the applicant be unable to use the primary application method due to having no Group 1 documents, they must use what's called Route 2. Route 2 requires the applicant to provide one document from Group 2a and two more documents from either Group 2a or Group 2b. Again, one of the documents provided must show the applicant's current address.

If the applicant is unable to go through either Route 1 or Route 2 to get their DBS, they should apply via Route 3. In order to apply for a DBS check via Route 3, applicants must be able to provide a birth certificate issued after the time of birth, one document from Group 2a and three more documents from either Group 2a or Group 2b. Like those who apply for their check through Route 1 or Route 2, Route 3 applicants must provide proof of current address on at least one of these documents.

For more information on which documents you must provide and how to build your application, visit the government DBS website.

Also, read more about how to prepare for a Private Tutoring Sessions and how to provide successful, lively classes.

How Long is a DBS Check Valid?

DBS checks have no official expiry dates. All the information included in a DBS check will be accurate at the time of the check being carried out, which means that information can change in the time after a certificate has been obtained. Employers, therefore, might decide to have new checks performed on a regular basis in order to ensure that their records are up-to-date and that their employees are meeting their professional requirements.

The DBS update service is an ongoing service to keep your DBS check up to date. Applicants and employers can use this service to keep their certificates up to date, and employers can also use this service to carry out checks on the certificate of a potential employee. A subscription to the DBS update service costs £13 a year, and for this price, you will be able to see if any changes have been made to your certificate as well as being able to view who else has checked your certificate for updates.

Subscription to the DBS update service can be automatically paid and renewed by direct debit.

If you have a certificate from CRB, the former service from the Criminal Records Bureau, then this will still be valid under the new Disclosure and Barring Service. You may nonetheless wish to update this to a DBS check, although it is not necessary.

Depending on the requirements of your previous employers, you may have more than one DBS or CRB certificate (all of which can be viewed using the DBS update service).

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Employers can accept a previously issued DBS certificate, but they must be sure to check the applicant’s identity against the details on the certificate, and they must check that it is the right type and level certificate for the role the tutor will be taking on. Should the existing DBS check not be suitable for the role, another application to the Disclosure and Barring Service must be made.

DBS checks have specific security features so that you can verify that they are genuine and valid. They will have a ‘crown seal’ watermark repeated along the right side, ink and paper that changes colour when wet, and a background design with the word ‘disclosure’.

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All checks may not always be necasary but they offer credibility and security to parents and students.
There are different types of checks available for private tutors. Source: StockSnap

How Can I Obtain a Check for Tutor Jobs from Disclosure Scotland?

If you are self-employed and wish to obtain a background or criminal record check, you can use the services of Disclosure Scotland, as mentioned above.

This can be done directly through the organisations, and you do not need to go through an agency or umbrella body to access these checks.

Disclosure Scotland is a government service from which you can apply for criminal records checks very similar to DBS. Disclosure Scotland has access to the same databases and information as DBS, which is why it is considered DBS’s sister organisation.

There are different types of checks that can be provided by Disclosure Scotland, depending on the type of work you're doing. These include:

CheckPriceWhat's IncludedCan a Self-Employed Person Apply for This?
Basic£25Unspent convictionsYes
Standard£25Unspent convictions, relevant spent convictions, unspent cautionsNo
Enhanced£25Unspent convictions, relevant spent convictions, unspent cautions, inclusion on children's or adult's list, other relevant information in police databaseNo
Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme£59Criminal record check and other relevant informationNo

A basic disclosure is the most common, and can be obtained by anyone. It is the lowest level of disclosure available, including information on any 'unspent' convictions that a person might have. 'Unspent' convictions are convictions which need to be declared to employers, whereas 'spent' convictions can be ignored after a certain amount of time for the purposes of basic disclosure.

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If you are self-employed, you are eligible to apply for a basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland with an online application - even if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. If you live outside of the UK, you can still apply for basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland, but you must apply using a paper application form instead. All self-employed applicants are unable, however, to apply for any of the other checks.

In order to apply for basic disclosure, there are a few things you will need to hand:

  • Details of your addresses for the past 5 years
  • National Insurance number
  • Copy of proof of date of birth (e.g. passport, birth certificate, driving license, etc.)
  • Copy of proof of current address (e.g. utility bill, bank statement, council tax bill, etc.)

Disclosure Scotland will charge an application fee of £25 which is payable via credit or debit card.

Like normal DBS checks, there is a variety of checks which can be obtained from Disclosure Scotland which cover various levels and types of information about your possible criminal background. Standard and enhanced disclosures involve higher level checks, and can only be applied for by an employer. They are aimed at people in roles such as law enforcement, firearms licences or adoption applicants, for example.

An employer might, however, wish to apply for a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme, which is aimed at people who do ‘regulated work’ with children and vulnerable adults.

Regulated work includes teaching, instructing, training or supervising children, unsupervised contact with children, and providing advice or education to children, for example.

A PVG certificate contains all information on unspent and certain spent convictions, and any other information that the police or other government bodies think is relevant. As a tutor, it is unlikely that an employer will require this check of you.

Now you're up to speed on DBS checks read more about the legalities of giving 1 to 1 tuition, how to report your income as a home-tutor and whether you should obtain insurance for your tutoring business.

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.