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Modernising the Disclosure and Barring Service inquiry


The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) handles requests for disclosure of criminal records (or DBS checks) from employers and issues disclosure certificates. DBS checks are widely used by organisations in the public and private sector, such as schools and care homes, to check prospective employees and volunteers.

In 2009, the Home Office launched a programme to increase the efficiency of safeguarding services. Key aims of the programme were to reduce the cost of running the disclosure service, through customers using a new and cheaper update service rather than continuing to use existing types of disclosure certificates. The Home Office expected 2.8 million paying users to be using the new update service by 2017–18, but it was not market tested and the actual number of users is around one million.

According to a recent investigation from the National Audit Office, the modernisation programme is now running three and a half years late and expected costs have increased by £229 million. DBS is currently negotiating with its contractor, Tata Consultancy Services, over the delays.

The modernisation programme and the update service were expected to increase the ease and frequency with which people were checked, thereby improving safeguarding. But the Home Office and DBS do not know how many people have been prevented from working with children or vulnerable adults through use of this information.

On Monday 19 March the Public Accounts Committee will hold an evidence session on the Disclosure and Barring Service. The session will examine:

  • Delays in the modernisation of the programme;
  • Why the programme is so late and over budget;
  • What safeguarding benefits will be delivered and by when.