DBS Certificates FAQ

Take a look at the DBS Guidance document below for information on which documents we can accept to complete a DBS check and click here to book on to our next DBS clinic. If your question is not answered below and you are still in doubt, please attend a drop-in shift or email us at ysis@york.ac.uk or give us a call on 01904 322 840. 

DBS Information 2016-17 (PDF  , 197kb)

Do I need to do a DBS check?

If you are taking part in a York Students in Schools placement, you will definitely require a DBS check from the University of York.

If you have applied for a York Students in Communities placement, you may also need a check. However, this check should be undertaken by the organisation you are working with and not the University of York, however we are able to offer advice where needed.

Please note that some other projects that we advertise such as @Work projects may also require a DBS check from the University, but we will let you know if this is the case.

What is a DBS Check?

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) helps employers and voluntary organisations make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children and young people.

When you send off your application form, the DBS service will search police records and then issue a DBS certificate to you, which will either be clear or show any criminal records you may have. Find out more about the DBS check process here.

Why do I need to get a DBS check?

For projects and placements working with children and vulnerable adults, volunteers must have a DBS check completed before you can start placements or projects in schools or other community organisations.

This means that the Volunteering team must:

  • Establish the true identity of the applicant through examining a range of documents
  • Ensure that the applicant provides details and evidence of all names by which they have been known
  • Ensure that the applicant provides a five year address history

When and where should I apply for my DBS certificate?

If you have applied for a York Students in Schools placement, please come in to either a DBS clinic or a drop-in shift to complete your check as soon as you've sent off your application form.

If you have applied to a York Students in Communities placement, please await confirmation of your place and guidance from the organisation you have applied to before starting a check with them.

For other projects and placements offered by the volunteering team, you will be advised regarding when and how you can apply.

What will I need to complete my check?

Before coming to a DBS drop-in or clinic, you will need to know your address history of 5 years and provide three documents which prove your identity, one of these documents needs to have either your current home or term time address on it. Please read the following carefully to understand which documents to bring:

  • You only need to know your 5 year address history and only need to provide a piece of identification for your current address. Your current address can be either your term time address in York or your home address (i.e. if you go home in the holidays).
  • The address you provide evidence for must be a UK address.
  • Please note that some documents have time restictions, for example a bank statement must be less than three months old. See time restrictions here.
  • The Volunteering team cannot accept ANY photocopies or documents printed from the internet, this includes online bank statements.


An example of a combination of documents that would be valid for the check are:

- A valid passport (any country, must be valid and current)

- A driving licence photocard (any country)

- A bank statement (less than three months old and displays your current UK address)

If I was cautioned, or was convicted of an offence when I was very young, will this affect my chances of a placement?

Not necessarily; you should declare if you have a previous caution or conviction (it is an offence not to) on the DBS application form, and discuss this with us if you feel comfortable doing so. 

Cautions or convictions will appear on your DBS certificate. It is our policy to share this information with host schools before allowing a volunteer to commence their placement, and it is at the discretion of the host school whether or not you will be able to volunteer with them. We will not contact the school until we have your permission, and if you would prefer that we do not share this information with your host school, then unfortunately we are not able to allow you to volunteer on this occasion. 

We would like to reassure volunteers that host schools are often willing to accept volunteers who do not have a clear crimilar records check, as long as the offence does not relate to children or vulnerable adults. The decision as to whether a student can proceed with their placement is made by the school. The volunteering team will make every effort to guard your privacy in this regard.

I'm an international student, what should I do?

International students are entitled to undertake voluntary work whilst they are studying; however it is important to note that just because work is unpaid it is not necessarily classed as genuine voluntary work. Unpaid work and paid work are covered by your visa restriction - and you must not work more than 20 hours per week (paid or unpaid) in term time.   If you are not sure if the activity you are doing is classed as "voluntary work" or "unpaid work" please contact immigration@york.ac.uk.

Have you lived in the UK for less than 12 months?

If so, you will need to produce a translated police check/ certificate of good conduct/ ministry of Justice certificate, from your own country.  Advice on obtaining this can be found at http://www.cpni.gov.uk/advice/Personnel-security1/Overseas-criminal-record-checks/, please note that the volunteering team are not able to advise you on how to obtain this check. 

You will also still need to complete a criminal records check through the DBS. Alternatively, you may wish to wait until you have been resident in the UK for a year before applying for voluntary projects and placements.

Do you accept photocopies or scanned documents?

No. In order to complete your check we must see three pieces of original evidence, we cannot determine your identity through photocopies, this includes bank statements printed from the internet.

If you would like to use an online bank statement as you no longer receive paper statements, you may go into your local branch and take your own printed statement and ask them to validate it by signing and stamping the statement. This way we know that the bank can confirm that the address on your printed statement is your current address, alternatively you can ask the bank to print the statement for you, or some branches have machines where you can print your own validated document.

Where will my certificate be sent to?

Your certificate will be sent to whichever address you are providing evidence for i.e. either your current term time address or your home address. 

If you are getting your certificate sent to an address on campus, please make sure you check the mail room regularly in case your DBS check doesn't go directly to your flat's mailbox. It may also be worth checking with your college reception to see if they are looking after it!

What should I do when my DBS certificate arrives?

Please keep it safe and show it the the volunteering team as soon as possible. You can bring this to any drop-in shift. It is a legal requirement that you show your DBS check to both the volunteering team and the school.

On your first day at the school ask them if they would like to see your DBS check, and ask whether they would like you to bring it to school every time you visit. Every school has a slightly different DBS policy so its worth asking at the start of your placement what is expected.

Can I use my DBS for other placements?

Your DBS check is valid for three years and covers any volunteering activity run by the University of York, this includes YUSU projects.

Please note that if you require a check for working with the Widening Participation team i.e. as a Student Ambassador, your certificate gained through the Careers Volunteering Team may not have the required level of check and you may need to complete another application for them. However, if you already have a certificate from the Widening Participation team, you will be able to use this for volunteering roles with us.

What is the Update Service?

If you would like to use your DBS certificate for a placement at a different organisation, you might want to sign-up for the update service, this allows organisations to 'update' your exisitng certificate so that you don't need to send off for a brand new check. This service is free for volunteers.

In order to register you will need to know your application reference number (starts with F - e.g. F0012345678) and must complete the registration form within 19 days of DBS issuing your certificate. Find more information on the DBS website.

Can I track the progress of my application?

Yes. If you have your form reference number (e.g. F0012345678) you can find out where your application has got to using the DBS tracking service. Just input your reference number and date of birth here.

If you didn't write down your reference number when you sent off your check, please contact us at ysis@york.ac.uk and we will find this for you.

I've tracked my certificate and it's been sent but I haven't received it. What can I do?

First, if you've sent the certificate to halls of residence, double check that it hasn't been sent to your college reception or your accommodation mail room. 

If you are unsure about the address you requested your certificate to be sent to, contact the volunteering team at ysis@york.ac.uk and they can find this information for you.

If none of the above apply, then you will need to request a reprint from the DBS service by phone or email. Please note that the volunteering team cannot request a reprint on your behalf, and you cannot change the address your certificate is being sent to.