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Working in Government – Security vetting / Security clearance

Individuals working for or with the Government may have to undergo ‘security clearance’ depending on the role. Usually, you will be told what level of security clearance you will need.

There are four levels of Government security clearance:-

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) and Enhanced Baseline Standard (EBS)
  • Counter Terrorist Check
  • Security Check
  • Developed Vetting

This information is designed to help you understand what these types of clearance levels mean if you have a criminal record.

Have you been granted one of these levels of vetting/clearance?

We’re always keen to hear from people who have convictions who have successfully managed to be employed in all different sectors and professions. As you will see below, security vetting for Government-related jobs is quite stringent, but equally all this explains is the process. There is very little guidance about whether convictions will prevent you from being employed.

As a result, to help us improve our information, we’re always looking for people to get in touch to let us know if they’ve managed to be successful, so that we can give a better indication of how this works in practice. Please get in touch (your personal details will be confidential).

Baseline Personnel Security Standard and Enhanced Baseline Standard

These are an entry level security check and not looked upon as formal security clearance. They form part of a package of pre-employment checks that represent good recruitment and employment practice. They aim to provide an appropriate level of assurance as to the trustworthiness, integrity and probable reliability of prospective employees.

The BPSS involves verification of identity; nationality and immigration status; employment history and criminal record declaration. A basic criminal record check (through Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS)) will also be carried out which will show any unspent convictions – find out more about these here – link to https://unlock.org.uk/advice/basic-disclosure/.

All Government departments are required to ensure that any individual employed to work in their offices or on their systems comply with BPSS prior to taking up their posts.

You may be asked to consent to a BPSS if you are:

  • Working in the public sector and Armed Forces
  • Working for a private company on government contracts with access to confidential government assets – an example is contractors to the DWP (they have produced guidance available here)
  • Working in roles which involve higher levels of vetting/security clearance, such as the Counter Terrorist Check (CTC), Security Check (SC) and Developed Vetting (DV). The BPSS is not a security clearance whereas the CTC, SC and DV are all formal security clearances obtained through the National Security Vetting process – the BPSS underpins the national security vetting process of these higher levels. If a BPSS is being carried out as part of the groundwork for national security vetting, a full check of criminal records will be made.

The Enhanced Baseline Standard allows supervised access to secret material. The same information is required as that of a BPSS, as well as a mandatory interview and references from people familiar with an applicant’s character in both the home and work environment.

Guidance on the pre-employment screening of civil servants, members of the armed forces, temporary staff and Government contractors can be found in guidance from the Cabinet Office.

Counter Terrorist Checks (CTC)

A CTC is used to prevent persons who may have connections with terrorist organisations, or who may be vulnerable to pressure from them, from undertaking certain security duties where sensitive information may be compromised.

A CTC will usually take six months to complete and is normally valid for 3 years.

To gain CTC clearance, applicants will usually need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 3 years. It may also be necessary to attend an interview with the body completing the checks.

Security Clearance (SC)

This is the most common type of vetting process. It is transferrable between Government departments and covers a wide range of jobs. It is valid for 5 years for Government contractors and 10 years for permanent employees who require substantial access to secret and occasionally top secret assets and information.

To gain security clearance an applicant will normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 5 years. The process includes:-

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard
  • Completion of an SC questionnaire
  • Checking identity documents and employment/educational references
  • Checks against UK criminal records
  • Credit reference checks

An example of a CTC/SC Questionnaire can be found here.

Security Clearance will involve a check against police records, and this will reveal all cautions and convictions that are held on these systems. Note – the DBS filtering process does not apply.

Developed Vetting (DV)

This level of security clearance provides substantial unsupervised access to top secret assets or for people working in the intelligence or security agencies. This stringent security check is much more specialised and tends to be job related.

To gain DV clearance, you will normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 10 years. There are several stages to the vetting process:-

  • SC Clearance (see above)
  • Completion of a DV supplementary questionnaire
  • Completion of a financial questionnaire
  • A review of the candidates personal finances
  • A medical and psychological assessment
  • Interviews with the candidates referees
  • A detailed interview with the candidate

Some commonly asked questions about DV can be found here.

Useful links

For further information regarding the various levels of check, click here to visit a section on GOV.UK.

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Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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