Can I get a free background check in the UK?

Can I get a free background check in the UK?

16 May 2024


Can I get a free background check in the UK? 

Whether you’re just starting out in your career, moving to a new role or changing employers, you may find that you are required to undertake a background check. Also known as criminal record check – or DBS check – it’s both important and useful to know what this check is and why it’s needed. If you’re starting out, you may also be following a careful budget and wonder if there’s a cost attached to a background check. You might even be starting as a new volunteer with vulnerable adults or children and the organisation you’re planning to volunteer with may ask you to undertake a DBS check.  

Let’s look at what a DBS background check is and find out whether or not you can get a free criminal background check?  

The Significance of DBS Background Checks 

Background checks, also known as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks in the UK, perform a key role in ensuring candidate safety and suitability for various roles. These checks verify an individual’s criminal record and, depending on the level of the check, may reveal other relevant information, such as employment history. Traditionally, a paper-based process, online background checks now mean that your checks can be carried out digitally, faster.  

Why are DBS checks needed? What are the costs? 


DBS background checks offer employers peace of mind by understanding if their candidates possess a criminal record or have a criminal history. The DBS process does not offer judgement but allows the employer to make an informed decision. This is equally true of organisations with volunteer roles that require a DBS check. This is especially important for roles that involve children, vulnerable adults, or require the handling of sensitive information. 

Employers may ask that you pay the administration charge alongside the DBS check. These can range in price and are in addition to the Basic or Standard DBS government charge of £18 or the Enhanced government charge of £38. Typically, many employers will pay for the total cost of a DBS check but you may wish to check this directly with the employer.  


For volunteer organisations, DBS background checks help safeguard the wellbeing of those that they care for and ensure volunteers uphold the organisation’s values. This is especially relevant for roles involving direct contact with vulnerable groups. 

Volunteer DBS checks – whether Basic, Standard or Enhanced – do not attract a government charge but will have an administration fee applied by the umbrella body that will run the check on behalf of the organisation. At MyVetting, we’ve worked hard to ensure these costs are as low as possible as we try to support volunteer-focused organisations. 


As an individual, you are eligible to carry out a Basic DBS check on yourself, without the help or support of an organisation. There are two ways in which you can do this. You can go direct to the Government site or you can ‘Buy Now’ from Both of these options have a charge attached to them. Getting your own Basic DBS check  allows you to prepare for potential disclosures during job applications or volunteer placements. It empowers you to address any concerns proactively and demonstrate your suitability for the role. 

Understanding DBS Checks: A Breakdown of Options 

The DBS offers three main types of checks, with varying levels of declaration: 

Basic DBS Check: This is the most common and least expensive check. It discloses details of unspent convictions and cautions, which haven’t become “spent” under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). This might include offences like shoplifting or minor assaults that haven’t passed the designated rehabilitation period. 

Standard DBS Check: In addition to the information revealed in a basic check, a standard DBS check also includes any positions held on the Police National Computer (PNC). This can include details of non-criminal cautions or investigations, though not convictions deemed spent under the ROA. 

Enhanced DBS Check: The most comprehensive check, an enhanced DBS check discloses spent and unspent convictions, cautions, and any other information deemed relevant by the DBS. This might include details of previous employment or disciplinary actions. The enhanced check with barred lists is an even more rigorous version, including information about individuals disqualified from working with children or vulnerable adults. 

Exploring Free Background Check Options in the UK 

While there’s no truly “free” background check or free DBS check in the sense of a comprehensive report. For a properly regulated DBS check, there will be a fee attached, there are some other options that you might have spotted online that suggest they are offering a free DBS. Please be aware that there is no substitute for a DBS check and a ‘free’ DBS check may not offer an actual DBS check.  

Other options: 

Subject Access Request

You can request a Subject Access Request from your local police station. This allows you to access your basic criminal record information, including details of convictions and cautions. However, it is not a formal DBS check and may not be accepted by employers or volunteer organisations requiring a more official verification. 

Important Considerations for a Free Background Check 

It is highly likely that a ‘free’ background check is not a formal DBS check and you may find that your report falls well short of the verification required by employers and volunteer organisations. Issues that a ‘free’ background check could result in: 

Limited Information
A free option typically won’t provide the same level of detail as a formal DBS check. They may not reveal spent convictions or information held on the PNC. 

Not Accepted by Employers
Most employers for regulated roles or those requiring a higher level of scrutiny will require a paid DBS check conducted through an approved provider, like MyVetting. 

Accuracy Concerns
A free options might not be as current or accurate as a DBS check conducted by an official channel. 

Obtaining a Formal DBS Check  

Searching ‘ how to check my criminal record uk ‘? For most employment purposes or volunteering opportunities requiring a background check, a formal DBS check conducted through an approved DBS provider, like MyVetting, is necessary. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to obtaining a formal DBS check: 

Identify the Required Check Level: Talk to your potential employer or volunteer organisation to understand the specific DBS check level required for the role. The type of check will depend on the role’s sensitivity and level of responsibility. 

Your Organisation will Request a Check through an approved DBS Provider: The DBS website provides a list of approved providers that can process your check application.  

Complete your check: When requested to, complete the application form with the necessary details, including your identification documents and the DBS check level required.  

With MyVetting, both you and your volunteer organisation or potential employer can track the progress of your check through the DBS system. Once completed, MyVetting will let both you and the organisation that requested the DBS check know that your report is ready. 


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