Research Ethics Committee

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks

It is a requirement by law for both student and staff researchers to undergo DBS Checks when in a position of trust or and/or as part of their studies.

It is imperative that researchers to whom this applies take action promptly as it can take a month or more to arrange and complete the check; but it is important that researchers have received their clearance before entering a position of trust.

Please note that UCL, in accordance with DBS guidelines, does not accept portability of DBS checks which UCL staff or students may have from previous organisations as proof of satisfactory clearance. Further information is available on the → HR website and on the official → DBS website.

Positions of trust are roles that involve regulated activity with children (someone who is under 18) or adults as defined below.

Regulated Activity – Children

Unsupervised teaching, training or instruction, supervising, caring for children – Examples include: private tutors, teachers, speech therapists and youth workers. Wardens are likely to be supervising or caring where there are students under 18 living in student residencies.

Unsupervised advice or guidance for children, and advice, guidance or assistance for vulnerable adults – For children this includes advice or guidance which relates to their physical, emotional or educational wellbeing e.g. children's mentors, counsellors, children's career advisors including members of Outreach providing advice to children at the same schools/ colleges.

Specified place – In some specified places, regulated activity includes anyone whose work gives them the opportunity for contact with children, regardless of the type of activity. For example, this will include catering, cleaning, administrative and maintenance workers or contractors if they meet the frequency test. Specified places include:

Regulated Activity – Adults

The new legal definition of regulated activity for adults no longer uses the term 'vulnerable adults' and no longer requires the activity to meet a minimum frequency threshold. The definition now focuses on the nature of activities, which if required by an adult, will define them to be vulnerable. Staff and managers of staff providing the following activities will be conducting regulated activity:

Regulated Activity – Children and Adults

Healthcare treatment or therapy provided to vulnerable groups – This includes healthcare professionals, therapists, healthcare assistants, in both hospitals and community settings.

Students with placements in regulated activity – Students are likely to be conducting regulated activity where they have placements in workplaces arranged by UCL for courses leading to employment as teachers, social workers, youth workers, counsellors, doctors and allied health professions.

Research – Staff or students who may interact with vulnerable groups through their academic research may count as regulated activity. An interview with a child, or an experiment to test a child's response to some stimulus, outside a school setting, is not in itself regulated activity. If there is a carer present, the academic is not providing care or supervision and is not therefore carrying out regulated activity. Research with an adult is only regulated activity if there is health care, personal care, social care or assistance. If the researcher is a health professional, s/he will carry out regulated activity anyway.

Exemptions from regulated activity

Under-18s in higher education – Teaching, training and instruction or care and supervision of under-18s in higher education will not be required to have DBS checks. The exemption in relation to under-16s will only come into effect when the department has undertaken a risk assessment and put in place suitable arrangements in the light of the result of the risk assessment e.g. restriction of one-to-one contact with the child.

Students aged 18 or over who work with students under 18 – The 'peer exemption' applies to students aged 18 or over and they will not carry out regulated activity if they live and work alongside younger students. However students over 18 working with students under 18 will still need to comply with → UCL Safeguarding policies.

Children and young people in the workplace – Teaching and training, care and supervision, advice and guidance and medical treatment provided as part of a 16 or 17 year-old's employment (which may be part of their learning or in a work experience situation) is not regulated activity if carried out by a person for whom arrangements do not exist principally for that purpose. In the case of work experience, a DBS check will only be required if an employee's specific job purpose includes looking after under-16 work experience students – see the Work Experience Policy.

Activity with children which is merely incidental to activity with adults

Porters/security guards – in halls of residence or other HE premises: if care or supervision of students (who are under 18) is not in their role description, they are not carrying out regulated activity and DBS checks will not be required.

Ancillary first aid – provided by an employee as an ancillary part of their job is not regulated activity.

There is an exemption of regulated activity undertaken by visitors from outside England, Wales or Northern Ireland for up to three months with children or adults also from outside England, Wales or Northern Ireland e.g. summer camps where the children reside at UCL residencies.