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Problems with manual DBS certificates and the DBS update service – has this happened to you?

In their guidance to employers for the update service, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) state that:

An employer can check someone’s DBS certificate status online and get a result straight away”

This ability to check someone’s criminal record quickly and start them working almost immediately is seen as a benefit to employers. Many employers have started to ask that anybody seeking work in roles that involve standard or enhanced DBS checks to sign up to the update service as part of their recruitment process.

However, we’ve recently been made aware of issues arising with the update service if you’re only able to get what’s called a “manual certificate”.

Manual certificates are usually produced by the DBS when technical issues occur during the retrieval of data from the Police National Computer (PNC). We’ve learnt that this is an issue that seems to specifically impact on people with convictions, and usually where someone has appealed a sentence or conviction.

As it stands, if you have a manual certificate you won’t be able to use it to join the update service. We’ve raised this as an issue and the DBS are working on improving the system and can write to any employer that insists on applicants joining the update service, explaining the reasons why this may not be possible. However, in our opinion, this could potentially give rise to suspicion amongst employers.

A recent Freedom of Information request that we did, covering the financial year 2016/17, showed that in total 4,335,385 standard and enhanced checks were carried out of which, 1,161 were produced manually. The DBS have confirmed that all 1,161 certificates contained some PNC information.

Although the numbers may appear small, potentially 1,161 people are unable to join the update service and could be prevented from working for those employers who use it as a mandatory part of their recruitment process.

We’d like to hear from anybody that has experienced difficulties in joining the update service with a manual certificate, especially where it’s stopped you from applying for jobs with certain employers. Please email your details to

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our DBS update service section
  2. Discuss this with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.


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  1. Hi my husband dbs isn’t coming it’s over 10 weeks is it not normal.Normally comes within two weeks lived in same property for 20 years.

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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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