Criminal records checking scheme expects 750,000 Covid-19 applications spike

The official criminal records checking scheme has said it expects a spike of around 750,000 applications will be made for checks of volunteers due to the coronavirus outbreak.

More than 100 people in the UK have died after contracting Covid-19, promoting members of the public to set up volunteer groups to help out the elderly and vulnerable in their communities as the number of cases increases.

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was set up in 2012, and accesses data held on police databases to help organisations make recruitment decisions.

It is widely used in the public, private and voluntary sector, such as schools and care homes, to check prospective staff and volunteers.

The new volunteer groups are offering support, such as food shopping, childcare, teaching and running errands for people who have been forced into self isolation for four months.

Eric Robinson, chief executive of the DBS, said measures have been taken to ensure applications for volunteers would be “prioritised”.

He added: “For those who are assisting in responding to this national emergency, we are making sure, where possible, checks are carried out within 24 hours and also checking the barred lists to make sure applicants are not already barred from working in regulated activity.

“We will continue to work with the Home Office and other Government departments to provide them with as much support as possible and we believe with the measures we have taken, we will be in a position to meet the increase in demand for the foreseeable future.”

In his daily briefing on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said retired health professionals were being asked to return to help the NHS with this “unprecedented challenge”.

Retired doctors have to reapply for a DBS check after leaving a trust under NHS guidelines.

The news comes after Mr Johnson said all schools, nurseries and colleges in England will close indefinitely on Friday and GCSE and A-level exams are cancelled.

The objective is to slow down the spread of Covid-19, but there is still a need for NHS workers to continue to go to work, as well as police officers, supermarket delivery drivers and social care workers looking after the elderly, he said.

The DBS is understood to have “as many staff as possible” working to complete the checks within 24 hours and will continue working as normal over the next few months.

Staff from other areas of the business have also been redeployed to help with the increase in demand.

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