Does my new partner need a DBS check?

Posted by Laura Bennett on

In England and Wales, an employer must check a potential employee's criminal records if they apply for certain jobs or voluntary positions.  This is carried out through the Disclosure and Barring Service (previously known as the Criminal Records Bureau).  A thorough check is also carried out against a person who is applying to foster or adopt a child.

 Only employers and licensing bodies can request a full DBS check.  However, it is possible for an individual to request basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland (this can be applied for by anyone living in England, Wales or Scotland).  The basic disclosure certificate will contain information about every conviction of the applicant, or state that there are no convictions.  Crucially, the basic disclosure will not show any convictions which have been 'spent.' 

I was recently consulted by a client who is a teacher.  She had indicated to her ex-husband that she was uncomfortable with his new partner being with her children in an unsupervised environment until a DBS check had been carried out.  As a teacher, my client was aware that any person who could potentially come into contact with children at her school, including support staff, would have been the subject of a DBS check and therefore it did not cross her mind that this might be considered an unusual or potentially offensive request. 

There is no legal requirement for a new partner to be subject to a DBS check.  This does potentially seem at odds with the stringent checks that a person applying to foster or adopt a child must satisfy.  Indeed, I can understand why a parent would wish to know whether their ex's new partner has, for example, any criminal convictions for dangerous driving, or driving under the influence of alcohol. 

In the absence of legal regulation, it therefore falls to parents to agree how to manage this grey area.  Clearly, open and honest communication between the parents is the crucial.  It may be helpful for the new partner to be briefly introduced to the other parent prior to any introduction to the children, and for boundaries to be identified between the parties about the role the new partner will play in the lives of the children.  If the new partner is willing to request basic disclosure from Disclosure Scotland, then this may be a helpful way to alleviate concerns.    

If a parent has concerns regarding the safety or welfare of their child, then they should seek legal advice, or in an emergency, immediately consult the police.    

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Laura is a Senior Solicitor in the Family team based in Oxford.

Laura Bennett
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