How to Ensure the Safety of Vulnerable Adults with DBS and Other Checks

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Abuse happens in adults as well, particularly those who are vulnerable. In the UK, statistics reveal that from 2019 to 2020, 475,560 concerns of abuse were raised. This marked a significant increase of 14.6% from the previous year. 

The alarming trend underscores the urgent need to implement strict measures to safeguard vulnerable adults. Ensuring their safety and well-being requires that those entrusted with their care are not only skilled but also thoroughly trustworthy

One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through conducting comprehensive background checks on all individuals who work closely with vulnerable adults.

Definition of Vulnerable Adults

The government defines vulnerable adults as adults aged 18 and up who are unable to care for themselves or protect themselves from harm, abuse, or exploitation. This could be due to various reasons: age, illness, mental illness, disability, or other types of physical or mental impairment.

Types of Abuse Vulnerable Adults May Suffer From

When vulnerable adults are placed in the care of individuals who lack the necessary knowledge or have ill-intentions, they may suffer from various types of abuse:

  • Physical Abuse: Harm or injury inflicted through physical contact.
  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse: Actions or words that diminish the individual's sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.
  • Financial Abuse: Illegal or unauthorised use of a person's funds or assets.
  • Neglect: Failure to meet essential care and medical needs, impacting the individual's health and wellbeing.

This is why making sure that people providing care to vulnerable adults have undergone the essential background checks is important. 


Examples of Vulnerable Adults

Here are some examples of vulnerable adults:

  • People who are homeless
  • Individuals subjected to domestic abuse
  • Those experiencing mental health conditions
  • Older adults
  • People with disabilities
  • Victims of trafficking or exploitation
  • Individuals who have experienced sexual abuse
  • All receiving care and support

What Services Do Vulnerable People Receive?

Vulnerable adults, much like their non-vulnerable adults, are entitled to the basic necessities that ensure a dignified standard of living. This includes access to food, clothing, and shelter—essential services that form the foundation of care. 

However, the nature of their vulnerabilities often necessitates additional, specialised services designed to meet their unique needs effectively. These services not only enhance their quality of life but also promote a safer and more supportive environment for them. 

Examples of these specialised services include:

  • Personal Care Assistance, including help with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation.
  • Medical Care, like specialised healthcare services including medication management, physical therapy, and mental health support.
  • Social Services such as counselling, support groups, and services aimed at integrating them into the community.
  • Protective Services, including monitoring and interventions designed to safeguard them from abuse or exploitation.
  • Transportation Services, such as assistance with transportation to ensure they can attend appointments and social engagements.
  • Legal Assistance, like help with legal matters, including the management of finances or dealing with abuse cases.

If your loved one is a vulnerable adult, you must ensure that the people caring for them are knowledgeable, skilled, and trustworthy. One way to do this is to conduct the necessary background checks or ensure that the organisations the carers are affiliated with have done their due diligence.

If your business provides services to vulnerable adults, then their health, safety, and well-being should be your topmost priority. It's crucial to be aware of the specific legislations designed to protect them. Compliance is not optional; failing to adhere to these laws can result in serious consequences, both legally and for your organisation's reputation. 

Legal Framework Protecting Vulnerable Adults in the UK

Vulnerable adults are protected by a number of legislations, including:

  • The Care Act 2014, which outlines the responsibilities of local authorities and care providers in England to ensure that adults who need care receive it in a safe, effective, and respectful manner.
  • The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, which prevents those who pose a risk of harm from working with children and vulnerable adults. Under this legislation, employers must check that employees are not barred from working with these groups. The Act led to the creation of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), which assists employers in making safer recruitment decisions.
  • The Mental Capacity Act of 2005, which provides a framework to empower and protect vulnerable adults who are not able to make decisions about their own care and treatment. 

Of course, the vulnerable population is also protected from being discriminated against and their personal and sensitive information must be protected against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction, or damage.


How DBS Checks Protect Vulnerable Adults 

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks is the form of criminal checks in the United Kingdom. It is the employer’s legal responsibility to conduct them if they are in the business of providing care and services to vulnerable adults. 

DBS checks screen potential employees for any past criminal behaviour or other relevant issues that could pose a risk if they were placed in a role that works closely with a vulnerable person. This ensures that only suitable individuals, who do not have disqualifying records, are allowed to work closely with these sensitive groups.

Hence, if your loved one is a vulnerable adult receiving care from an organisation, it's best practice to enquire if they have conducted a DBS Check on the assigned carer.

Aspect Details
Purpose of DBS Checks To screen potential employees for any past criminal behaviour or relevant issues that could pose a risk when working closely with vulnerable adults.
Levels of DBS Checks - Basic: Unspent convictions and conditional cautions.
- Standard: Spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings.
- Enhanced: All above + additional police information.
- Enhanced with Barred Lists: All above + checks against lists barring individuals from working with children and vulnerable adults.
Eligibility for DBS Checks Basic Check: Anyone.
Enhanced Checks: Regulated Service Providers such as healthcare professionals, care workers, adult social care workers, certain transport roles, homesharers, shared lives carers.
How DBS Checks are Conducted Basic Check: Applicants can apply online.
Higher Levels: Employers apply through a Registered Body, which requires obtaining a form, filling it, submitting necessary documents.
Who Needs Enhanced DBS Professionals working closely with vulnerable adults, particularly in roles that involve personal care or regular contact.
Employer’s Responsibility Ensure that checks are conducted for individuals in roles providing care and services to vulnerable adults. It's best practice for organisations to confirm they've conducted these checks.
Government Tools Eligibility Tool available to determine what level of DBS a candidate is eligible for.

What are the levels of DBS Checks?

DBS Checks has 4 levels: Basic, Standard, Enhanced, and Enhanced with Barred List Check. 

  • Basic DBS Check: Shows any unspent convictions on an individual’s criminal record and conditional cautions.
  • Standard DBS Check: Shows both spent and unspent convictions, as well as any cautions, reprimands, or final warnings.
  • Enhanced DBS Check: Covers everything in the Standard check including any additional information the local police considers important to the role.
  • Enhanced DBS Check with Barred Lists: Contains the same information as the Enhanced check plus checks if the individual is on the lists of those barred from working with children and/or vulnerable adults.

Who can be asked to apply for a DBS Check?

Anyone can be asked to apply for a Basic DBS Check, but the higher levels have stricter guidelines. 

In many scenarios, people working closely with the vulnerable population need the Enhanced DBS with Adults’ Barred List Check, because they are considered a “Regulated Service Provider.” 

In the published guidelines, the following jobs are eligible for an Enhanced DBS with Adults’ Barred List Check:

  • Healthcare professionals whose normal duties is to provide care to adults 
  • Care workers or care assistants who carry out “personal care” activities for adults 
  • Adult social care workers 
  • Roles that transport adults to and from or between places where they receive healthcare, social, or personal services
  • Homesharer who helps with the financial day-to-day running of the home because the householder needs it due to their age, illness or disability
  • Shared lives carer who carry out personal care activities 

However, it still depends on the job a person carries out and how often they are in contact with the vulnerable adult. There are scenarios where candidates are not eligible for an Enhanced DBS with Adults’ Barred List Check, but they may be eligible for a Standard DBS or an Enhanced DBS without Adults’ Barred List Check

For more information on what type of DBS a candidate is eligible for, you can access the government’s Eligibility Tool


How do employers conduct DBS checks?

An applicant can request for a Basic DBS Check online, but the higher levels are not available for request. Only the employer can apply for them through a Registered Body, which is any organisation registered with DBS. 

The general steps include obtaining the form from the Registered Body, asking the candidate to fill the form and submit the necessary documents, and then forwarding these to the Registered Body. 

Of course, depending on the Registered Body the employer partners with, the steps may be automated and carried out online. 

Additional Checks To Safeguard Vulnerable Population 

In addition to DBS checks, employers providing care and services to vulnerable adults should conduct several other background checks to ensure comprehensive screening:

  • Right to Work Check: This is a legal requirement to confirm the individual's eligibility to work in the UK. Employers may use the Right to Work Share Code for this check. Learn more about RTW Checks here
  • Education Verification: Verifies the candidate's educational qualifications, which are essential for confirming their capability to perform their role.
  • Employment History Check: Reviews the candidate’s past job experiences, helping to assess their ability to deliver high-quality care. Employers in the UK have the option to instantly check a candidate’s employment history through Instant Background Checks
  • Reference Checks: Obtains insights from previous employers or relevant references about the candidate's reliability and trustworthiness. Learn more about Reference Checks here
  • Credit Checks: Important if the role involves managing or handling the finances of patients, to ensure financial integrity. Here’s more information on Credit Checks

Finally, remember that periodic rescreening is crucial as it helps ensure that employees continue to meet the necessary standards and compliance requirements, especially in roles where they work with vulnerable groups.


What Might Happen If Employers Skip on These Checks 

Failing to conduct the necessary background checks in a business that serves vulnerable adults in the UK can have severe consequences. 

Without thorough vetting, there is a risk of employing individuals who are unsuitable for working with vulnerable groups, potentially leading to instances of abuse or neglect. Such oversight can damage the reputation of your business, eroding public trust and leading to a loss of clientele. 

Additionally, it may result in legal ramifications, including penalties and even imprisonment for non-compliance with regulatory standards. 

Ultimately, skipping these essential checks compromises the safety and well-being of those who rely on your services, which should be the top priority of any care provider.

Trust Veremark for Your DBS Checks and Other Background Screening Needs

For organisations dedicated to the care of vulnerable adults, ensuring the safety and integrity of your workforce must be a priority. 

Partnering with Veremark offers you the peace of mind that comes with thorough and expert background screening. Our checks are not only comprehensive and accurate, but also streamlined through our simple, fully-automated, award-winning software, all while being fully compliant with UK laws

Whether you need DBS, Right to Work, or Education and Employment Verification checks, trust Veremark to uphold the highest standards of safety and compliance. Let us help you protect your most vulnerable clients and maintain the trustworthiness of your service.

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What qualifies someone as a vulnerable adult?

A vulnerable adult is typically someone who is unable to care for themselves or protect themselves from harm or exploitation due to disability, age, or illness. Examples include elderly individuals, people with disabilities, or those with certain health conditions.

Why are enhanced DBS checks important for employees working with vulnerable adults?

Enhanced DBS checks are crucial as they include a thorough review of a person's criminal history and any additional information held by the police that might be relevant to safeguarding vulnerable adults. This ensures that individuals with a history of harmful behaviour are not placed in positions of trust.

What are the consequences of not conducting thorough background checks?

Skipping necessary background checks can lead to hiring unsuitable staff, which might result in abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. It also exposes the service provider to legal penalties and damages their reputation.

Can Veremark help ensure compliance with UK laws for background checks?

Yes, Veremark specialises in providing comprehensive and compliant background checks that meet all UK legal requirements. Our processes are designed to be thorough, ensuring that your business adheres to regulatory standards efficiently.


What background check do I need?

This depends on the industry and type of role you are recruiting for. To determine whether you need reference checks, identity checks, bankruptcy checks, civil background checks, credit checks for employment or any of the other background checks we offer, chat to our team of dedicated account managers.

Why should employers check the background of potential employees?

Many industries have compliance-related employment check requirements. And even if your industry doesn’t, remember that your staff have access to assets and data that must be protected. When you employ a new staff member you need to be certain that they have the best interests of your business at heart. Carrying out comprehensive background checking helps mitigate risk and ensures a safer hiring decision.

How long do background checks take?

Again, this depends on the type of checks you need. Simple identity checks can be carried out in as little as a few hours but a worldwide criminal background check for instance might take several weeks. A simple pre-employment check package takes around a week. Our account managers are specialists and can provide detailed information into which checks you need and how long they will take.

Can you do a background check online?

All Veremark checks are carried out online and digitally. This eliminates the need to collect, store and manage paper documents and information making the process faster, more efficient and ensures complete safety of candidate data and documents.

What are the benefits of a background check?

In a competitive marketplace, making the right hiring decisions is key to the success of your company. Employment background checks enables you to understand more about your candidates before making crucial decisions which can have either beneficial or catastrophic effects on your business.

What does a background check show?

Background checks not only provide useful insights into a candidate’s work history, skills and education, but they can also offer richer detail into someone’s personality and character traits. This gives you a huge advantage when considering who to hire. Background checking also ensures that candidates are legally allowed to carry out certain roles, failed criminal and credit checks could prevent them from working with vulnerable people or in a financial function.

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