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Step-by-step guide to applying for a basic DBS check

Aim of this page

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) started carrying out basic criminal record checks in early 2018.  We have a dedicated landing page about basic DBS checks and also some specific information about basic disclosures.

There are two ways of getting a basic check from the DBS:

  • Option 1 – Applicants can apply directly to the DBS using their online self-service channel.
  • Option 2 – Applicants can apply via their employer or other registered organisation.

This guidance is a step-by-step process if you’re applying for a basic DBS check using option 1. It has been produced following an application made by a member of the Unlock team (referred to here as “our test application”).

Verifying your identity

The DBS use GOV.UK Verify as a secure way to prove who you are online. The site states that it will take between 5 and 15 minutes to verify your identity, although in our test application it took longer than that. If you know that you’ll need to apply for a basic DBS check, it may be worth verifying your identity in advance.

To verify your identity for a basic DBS check you’ll need:

  1. All your addresses for the last 5 years and the dates you lived there
  2. Your National Insurance number
  3. A debit or credit card
  4. Proof of your identity, for example a passport, valid driving licence or birth certificate.

Based on your age, where you’ve been living in the last 12 months and the type of ID that you have available, you’ll be given a choice of companies who will be able to verify your identity (you don’t have to be an existing customer with these companies).

  • Royal Mail
  • Experian
  • Barclays
  • Citizen Safe
  • Post Office
  • Digidentity
  • Secure Identity

Important: Keep a note of the company you’ve selected together with the email and password you’ve used to register. You’ll need these if you want to apply for further checks in the future.

Once your identity has been verified you’ll receive an email confirmation from the company you’ve chosen.

The DBS online application form

The online form will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Amongst the questions asked you’ll need to give:

  • Details of your previous addresses over the last five years and the dates you lived there
  • Your full name and any other names that you have been known by.

You will not be asked to provide any details about your criminal record.

Once you’ve completed all the questions, you can chose where you would like the certificate to be sent. This can be either your home address or ‘another address’ which could be your employer.

Make sure you’re clear about where you want your certificate to be sent. If you have a criminal record and you’re not sure whether it’s spent or not, you should consider putting your address down so that it comes to you first.

Even if you’re pretty confident that your criminal record is spent, we’d still advise that you request the check is sent to you, so that you can be confident that it’s blank before passing it onto your employer.

 In our test application, we put the details of the employer (in this case, Unlock) as we understood, because we knew the person who was asking for the basic check had an unspent criminal record, that permission to send to a third party would be revoked. However, the check was still sent to the third party. We have raised this with the DBS.

At the end of the application process the DBS state that an email will be sent to you with your application reference number.

Although it’s stated that the email may take up to three days, in our test application we received one within a couple of hours of completing the online form.

Tracking your application

It’s possible to track your application using your application reference number, date of birth and your surname.

You won’t be able to find out what’s on the certificate, just the status of it.

We do have some concerns that with just the above information, employers could check the status of your certificate. Although they wouldn’t be able to see any information relating to your criminal record, if you needed to raise a query with the DBS regarding the content of your certificate, your employer could question why you’ve not handed it over if they know that the certificate has been issued.

Once the certificate is ready

As soon as your certificate is ready, you’ll receive a letter from the DBS stating that a paper version will be posted to you separately. They will also include an authorisation code for you to use to view your certificate online. The certificate will be available to view online for approximately 28 days.

To view your certificate online you will need to create an online account by visiting Once you’ve created your online account you can use the authorisation code to link to your DBS profile.

When we were working through the process, we tried setting up our online account immediately after completing the online application form which we found to be quite problematic. It may have been because at that stage, we didn’t have the authorisation code to link to our profile. We’d therefore advise that you wait until you receive the letter from the DBS with your authorisation code before trying to set up your online account.


Sharing your certificate with your employer

The majority of employers will want to see the paper version of your certificate. However, once you’ve set up your online account it’s possible to give consent to your employer to view it online by going to the ‘manage consent’ page.

If your employer doesn’t already have a DBS account, the DBS will generate a one-off code which will allow them to view the certificate online.

The online certificate can’t be copied but it can be printed as a PDF.

The paper version of the basic check

If you have elected to receive a paper copy of your certificate this will usually be sent to you within 14 days of your application.

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Disclosure and Barring Service – Government body established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and merges functions previously carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
  • GOV.UK Verify – A government site providing a secure way to prove who you are online.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information basic DBS disclosures (disclosing unspent convictions), what will be disclosed on a basic DBS check? and basic DBS checks
  2. To discuss this issue 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.




Important links and organisations

This page has details of websites and organisations that we regularly provide links to, broken down into different subject areas. This is part of our approach of signposting to others.

Criminal record checks

The Association of Chief Police Offices (ACPO) operate the Criminal Records Office (ACRO). They are responsible for subject access requests for most police forces, as well as police certificates.

Telephone: 02380 479 920

Government body established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and merges functions previously carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

Telephone: 03000 200 190

Government body who work to provide a more effective and transparent criminal justice system and have responsibility for the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Telephone: 020 3334 3555
Online contact form:

Government body an executive body of the Scottish Government providing basic level checks in England, Wales and Scotland.

Telephone: 03000 2000 40 (or +44 141 427 2284)


Can assist with claiming benefits and help getting back into employment.

Telephone: 0345 604 3719 or Contact your nearest jobcentre plus

The Governments main Welfare to Work Programme will be replaced by the Work and Health Programme in the autumn of 2017. The Work and Health Programme will provide specialised support for those unemployed for over two years and, on a voluntary basis, to those with health conditions or disabilities. The Programme will be run by service providers awarded contracts by the government. The Programme will target people who with specialist support are likely to be able to find work within 12 months. It takes the place of two existing welfare-to-work schemes, the Work Programme and Work Choice, although many jobseekers who would previously have been supported by the Work Programme will now receive support directly through Jobcentre Plus rather than the Work and Health Programme.

A national programme which specifically helps people in prison and those in the community that have recently been sentenced or released from prison. You usually need to be referred onto the programme. For details of your local provider contact NOMS-CFO

Telephone: 01925 423 444
Address: NOMS CFO, 1100 Daresbury Park, Daresbury, Warrington WA4 4HS

Provides careers advice and information on a wide range of jobs, training course resources and funding.

Telephone: 0800 100 900

An organisation devoted to preventing and resolving employment disputes.

Helpline online service


The ABI provides consumers with general information on insurance and savings products.

Telephone: 020 7600 3333

BIBA assists individuals to access insurance products through it’s ‘Find a Broker’ service.

Telephone: 0370 950 1790

The Chartered Insurance Institute investigates complaints made by individuals against people in the financial services profession.

Telephone: 020 8989 8464

The Financial Ombudsman is the UK’s offical expert in helping individuals to sort out problems with banks, insurance, pensions etc.

Telephone: 0800 023 4 567 or 0300 123 9 123

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme is responsible for compensating customers when their insurers have stopped trading or have no assets to pay claims made against them.

Telephone: 0800 678 1100 or 020 7741 4100


Shelter works to alleviate the distress caused by homelessness and bad housing by providing advice, information and advocacy to people in housing need and by campaigning for political change to end the housing crisis.

Telephone: Helpline 0808 800 4444

Offer a drop in housing advice service for local homeless people.

Telephone: 0808 801 0600
On line form:
Address : 64-68 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8JB

Offer housing information, advice and resettlement services.

Telephone: 020 3856 6000
Address: 3 Thomas More Square, Tower Hill, London E1W 1YW

The national charity for single homeless people, offers housing advice and assists single homeless people find rented accommodation.

Telephone: 0300 636 1967
Address: 66 Commercial Street, London E1 6LT

A registered housing provider who provides homes and housing related support to people with complex needs.

Telephone: 0300 123 1999
Address: Walkden House, 16-17 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4SQ

Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s) are private sector suppliers of probation services in England and Wales responsible for supervising low and mediium risk offenders. To find the details of your local CRC visit


National Homelessness Advice Service (NHAS) provides free advice, training and support to housing professionals working in local councils, voluntary advice agencies, local Citizens Advice and public authorities in England.


Family members of those in prison

Offer support for anybody with a family member who is in contact with the criminal justice system. They provide advice on all aspects from arrest to preparing for release.

Website:                                                                                Telephone: 0808 808 2003                                                       Email:                                                                                      Address: 15-17 The Broadway, Hatfield, Herts AL9 5HZ

Provide support services to families through all stages of the Criminal Justice System from arrest to resettlement.

Telephone: 0161 702 1000
Address: POPS, 1079 Rochdale Road, Blackley, Manchester M9 8AJ

PACT is a national charity that provides support to prisoners, people with convictions and their families.

Telephone: 0808 808 3444                                                                                                               Email: .                                                                                       Address: 29 Peckham Road, London SE5 8UA

Work with parents whose children are in need, at risk or are in the care system.

Telephone: 0808 801 0366
Address: 2nd Floor, The Print House, 18 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL

We have a number of links to searchable websites, specific organisations and useful resources. These are on a page in the information section of this site.

Immigration advice

We are unable to give immigration advice as under UK immigration law, organisations can only provide this if they are registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). Details of specialist immigration organisations can be found below.

Bail for Immigration Detainees is an independent charity that exists to challenge immigration detention in the UK. They provide legal advice and representation to migrants detained in removal centres and prisons to help them secure their release.

Telephone: 020 7459 9750

Charities and voluntary organisations across the UK are being funded to provide help and information to vulnerable EU, EEA and Swiss citizens applying to the EU Settlement Scheme. The Home Office has information online about the organisations providing this support


The Citizens Advice Bureau website provides information on all aspects of immigration issues.

For your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau office : Contact us – Citizens Advice

Movement for Justice was set up in 1995 to tackle racism in institutional and established forms. They fight for immigrant rights and a society that is integrated on the basis of justice and equality.


PRCBC is the only organisation to focus directly on children and young adults and their right to British citizenship. They provide legal advice, aid, assistance and services relating to the registration of children as British citizens, to those people who could not otherwise obtain such provision due to lack of means.


For people with sexual offences

Supporting men and women who have sexually offended to resettle into the community by finding work or managing money.

Telephone: 0118 950 0068
Online contact form:
Address: Freepost Abbey House, Abbey Square, Reading, Berkshire RG1 3BE

A child protection charity committed to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused. LFF work with adult male and female sexual abusers, young people with inappropriate sexual behaviours, victims of abuse and other family members.

Their Stop It Now Helpline gives confidential advice and support to prevent child sex abuse.

Telephone: 0808 1000 900

Provides specialist therapy across the UK to people with sexual convicitons.

Telephone: 07473 299883

Resettlement services

The Clinks Directory is an online database listing hundreds of voluntary and community organisations working with offenders and their families.


Links can be found in the information section on prison.


Although we’re unable to provide any counselling services we’ve set out below some useful contacts. Some of these are general and some specific to people with convictions.

Provide confidential, non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, including those which could lead to suicide.

Telephone: 116 123
Address: Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, Stirling FK8 2SA

Offer advice, relationship counselling, sex therapy, workshops, mediation, consultations and support face-to-face, by phone or through their website.

Telephone: 0300 100 1234

BACP are the largest and broadest body within the sector. It’s work with large and small organisations within the sector ranges from advising schools on how to set up a counselling service, assisting the NHS on service provision, working with voluntary agencies and supporting independent practitioners.

Telephone: 01455 883300

You can use the Counselling Directory to search their network to connect with a professional counsellor or psychotherapist. They only list qualified/registered counsellors and psychotherapists.


Jigsaw Therapies is run by Jo Murdoch-Goodwin, who has experience of working in prisons in Kent, setting up services for long-term offenders and substance misusers.

Telephone: 07729 672003

Affect is a non-judgemental organisation that supports the families and friends of prisoners regardless of length of sentence or type of offence”.

Telephone: 0300 3653651
Address: c/o 58 Haylands, Portland, Dorset DT5 2LAT

Other organisations

Provide practical up-to-date information on a wide range of topics including benefits and housing, employment rights and discrimination and debt issues. Find your local bureau at


The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. Also provide advice on how to protect personal information and how to gain access to official records.

Telephone: 0303 123 1113

KeyRing has an e-helpline to assist people with learning disabilities or autism who are going through the criminal justice system.

Website:                                                                                            Email:
Telephone: 020 3119 0960

Set up by the government to provide free and impartial money advice.

Telephone: 0800 138 7777

A women’s charity working to help and support women through the criminal justice system .

Telephone: 020 7251 6575

A Big Lottery Funded project which aims to reduce reoffending by improving employability and enhancing life skills. Their annual target is to get 30 ex-offenders a driving licence and in return for being taught to drive, the applicants must commit to 80 hours of voluntary work in the UR4Meals Foodbank.

Telephone: 07967 328564

Assists British citizens who are in prison abroad. They also help families and friends of people who are incarcerated abroad. When British citizens return back to the UK after being imprisoned abroad, they provide a resettlement service to support them.


People who maintain their innocence

We exist to help people who have accepted what they have done, and are now wishing to lead a law-abiding life. If you maintain your innocence, we have details below of some organisations that may be able to help you.

MOJO is a charity offering support to those who have suffered wrongful conviction.

Telephone: 0141 552 0009
Email: support anyone who has been falsely accused of domestic violence, rape or any other sexual offence.

Online contact form:

Crisis services offering urgent support

You can access confidential emotional support at any time from the Samaritans. They are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Telephone: 116 123

National charity offering information, advice and support to anybody with a mental health problem.

Telephone: 0300 123 3393

24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling and need immediate help.

Text: 85258

Offer support to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Telephone: 0300 304 7000 (Open from 4.30pm to 10.30pm every day)

Offer support to anybody under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings.

Telephone: 0800 068 4141 or text 07786 209 697

If you identify as male and have hit crisis point, you can contact CALM.

Telephone: 0800 58 58 58 (open 5pm – midnight everyday)

Provide free confidential help and support to anybody under the age of 25 from Sunday – Friday, 2pm-11pm.

Telephone: 0808 808 4994)

If you or somebody else is in danger, or it feels like a situation might get dangerous and you need support right away, click on the link below to find out how to contact the police.

Telephone: 999

Mental health services are free on the NHS.

Telephone: To get urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 Online Service, or call 111 if you’re unable to get help online. For life threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance.

CEOP help children stay safe online. If anybody acts inappropriately towards you or another child or young person online (such as sexual chat, or being asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable) you can report if on the CEOP website.


Information/advice outside England & Wales

Our information and advice covers England & Wales only. We get lots of queries from people in other places, and much of our information and advice will be helpful. However, we’re unable to give specific advice as the laws and rules are different outside England & Wales, which is why we have details of organisations that cover different places below.


OARS has been delivering professional services and support to people who have offended and their families for over 130 years. They offer practical help including finding accommodation and clinical and legal support/services as well as advocating for better public policy to reduce the overuse of incarceration.


Outcare is a not for profit organisation providing rehabilitation services, programmes and support for people with convictions in Western Australia. They work with people prior to and after their release from prison and offer practical support such as finding accommodation, helping individuals find work together with financial assistance and support.


VACRO works with individuals and families throughout an individual’s journey through the prison system and as they transition back into the community. They offer a range of courses for individuals as well as downloadable resources.


The Prison Fellowship is a non-profit organisation set up approximately 40 years ago to support men and women in prison in Australia.



CFN assists individuals and families affected by criminal behaviour and imprisonment. They offer a free helpline and a bank of downloadable resources as well as facilitating support groups.


The John Howard Society have numerous offices across Canada and provide a range of services to released prisoners from basic job search skills to finding housing. They also advocate for changes in the criminal justice process and work to educate the public on all matters relating to criminal law and it’s application.


The 7th Step Society runs self-help programmes to assist people with convictions in changing their attitudes and behaviour that led them into conflict with the law.



The RPPC provide information, advice and training to assist people with convictions to reintegrate into society and rebuild ties with their families and friends.



Gevangenenzorg Nederlands is a voluntary organisation which helps people inside and out of the prison system, in becoming self-reliant. They also offer courses and mentoring to people released from prison.


Northern Ireland 

Access NI is a criminal record disclosure service in Northern Ireland.

Telephone: 0300 200 7888

NIACRO is a charity based in Northern Ireland. Part of its work includes providing advice to people with convictions through a helpline.

Telephone: 028 9032 0157
Online Enquiry form: niacro


CONFIAR provide assistance to ex-prisoners and their families.



Disclosure Scotland is an executive body of the Scottish Government providing basic, standard and enhanced criminal record checks. They can provide advice on Scottish-related disclosure issues.

Telephone: 03000 2000 40 (or +44 141 427 2284)

Next Chapter Scotland provides online information to anybody in Scotland who has been involved in the criminal justice system.


Work with employers to promote safe, effective and sustainable employment for people with criminal records in Scotland.


The official site for the Scottish Government with information on MSP’s, history and current parliamentary business.

Telephone: 0131 348 5000 / 0800 092 7500

United States

A campaign initiated by John Legend to change the criminal justice policies in the USA.


Hope for Prisoners is a non-profit organisation that offers mentoring programmes, pre-vocational training workshops and other training to men, women and young adults exiting the criminal justice system.


Kentucky Re-entry are a collection of businesses, local government bodies, faith based organisations, non-profit organisations and individuals who work together to offer support, assistance and resources to those who have been in prison.


The Fortune Society helps those that have served prison sentences re-enter the community by providing a ‘one stop shop’ of in-house services.


Enhanced DBS checks

What are enhanced checks?

Enhanced checks (officially known as Enhanced Criminal Record Certificates) are a type of criminal record check that can be used by employers when recruiting staff for jobs which are included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975.

They are issued by the Disclosure and Barring Service using information from the Police National Computer (PNC).

What are they used for?

Employers recruiting for certain positions which are included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975, as well as those being “prescribed” in regulations made under s113B, Part V of the Police Act 1997 can request enhanced checks. The majority of these positions will include frequent or intensive contact with children or vulnerable adults, for example teachers, doctors or social workers.

We have further information here on eligibility.

What information do they contain?

An enhanced certificate will include both spent and unspent convictions[1], held on the PNC which are not eligible for filtering, as well as information as to whether the person is included in a list of people barred from working in regulated activity in relation to children and / or adults (if eligible and requested ).

For each conviction, it will include:

  • the date of conviction
  • details of the court in which you appeared
  • details of the offence committed
  • the date of the offence
  • the sentence/disposal given.

It also includes any relevant information held on local police records.

How enhanced checks are applied for

It is not possible to apply for an enhanced check on yourself.

An employer can only request an enhanced check if the role applied for is eligible. If the employer carries out less than 100 checks per year, they will use a registered body (acting as an umbrella body) to apply for the check on their behalf. An employer will need your consent before they can apply for an enhanced check.

Applications can be made by post or online.

Online applications

The majority of registered bodies sign up to the DBS e-bulk service which allows them to submit applications and receive the results electronically. This generally reduces the time it takes for the check to be processed.

Once processed, the DBS will immediately send a notification to the registered body.

  • Where the DBS certificate contains information the registered body will receive an electronic notification to “await the paper certificate”.
  • Where all fields on the DBS certificate are blank, the registered body will receive an electronic notification which will state “Certificate contains no information”.

The DBS will send the certificate directly to you.

What’s the cost?

The cost of the check is £38 (free to volunteers) although there is often a charge by an umbrella body to undertake the check on behalf of an employer, if the employer is not a registered body

How long does it take?

Approximately 28 days

However, It can take a lot longer than this, especially if one of the larger police forces (for example the Metropolitan Police) are dealing with disclosure under the ‘relevant information’ section. If the local police force have not provided information to the DBS within 60 days, the DBS can escalate your application.

You can make a request after 60 days to have your application escalated by contacting the DBS on 03000 200 190 or by using their online tracking system.

Where will it be sent?

The certificate will usually be sent to you unless you have signed a waiver, requesting it to be sent to your employer.

An anonymous example of an enhanced certificate


First Enhanced Certificate page 1
Click on the image above to view the first two pages of an enhanced DBS certificate

Wording at the bottom of an Enhanced Disclosure Certificate

Enhanced Certificate

This document is an Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate within the meaning of section 113B and 116 of the Police Act 1997.

Use of certificate information

The information contained in this certificate is confidential and all recipients must keep it secure and protect it from loss or unauthorised access. This certificate must only be used in accordance with the Disclosure and Barring Service’s (DBS), Code of Practice and any other guidance issued by the DBS. Particular attention must be given to the guidance in the fair use of the information in respect of those whose certificate reveals a conviction or similar information. The DBS will monitor the compliance of Registered Bodies with the Code of Practice and other guidance.

This certificate is issued in accordance with Part V of the Police Act 1997, which creates a number of offences. These offences include forgery or alteration of certificates, obtaining certificates under false pretences, and using a certificate issued to another person as if it was one’s own.

This certificate is not evidence of the identity of the bearer, nor does it establish a person’s entitlement to work in the UK.

Certificate content

The personal details contained in this certificate are those supplied by or on behalf of the person to whom the certificate relates at the time the application was made and that appear to match any conviction or other details linked to that identity.

The information contained in this certificate is derived from police records, and from records held on those who are unsuitable to work with children and/or adults where indicated. The police records are those held on the Police National Computer (PNC), that contains details of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands and Warnings in England and Wales, and most of the relevant convictions in Scotland and Northern Ireland may also be included. The DBS reserves the right to add new data sources. For the most up to date list of data sources which are searched by the DBS please visit the DBS website.

The other relevant information is disclosed at the discretion of the Chief Police Officers or those of an equivalent level in other policing agencies, who have been approached by the DBS, with due regard to the position sought by the person to whom the certificate relates.

Certificate accuracy

The DBS is not responsible for the accuracy of police records.

If the person to whom this certificate relates is aware of any inaccuracy in the information contained in this certificate, he or she should contact the Countersignatory immediately , in order to prevent an inappropriate decision being made on their suitability. This Countersignatory will advise how to dispute that information, and if requested arrange for it to be referred to the DBS on their behalf.The information should be disputed within 3 months of the date of issue of the certificate.

The DBS will seek to resolve the matter with the source of the record and the person to whom the certificate relates. In some circumstances it may only be possible to resolve a dispute using fingerprints, for which consent of the person to whom the certificate relates will be required.

If the DBS upholds the dispute a new certificate will be issued free of charge. Details of the DBS’s disputes and complaints procedure can be found on the DBS’s website.

What can you do if the certificate contains incorrect or inaccurate information?

If your certificate contains inaccurate personal information, for example your name, date of birth or address, you need to raise a data entry dispute with the DBS.

However, if your conviction details are incorrect or inaccurate, you need to raise a data source dispute. This can be done online (you complete the form electronically, print and submit it by post) or call 03000 200 190 for a form.

DBS Subject Access Request

You’re entitled to know if the DBS holds any information about you and if so, to be provided with a copy of that information. This process is referred to as a Subject Access Request.


[1] Use of the word ‘convictions’ in this case refers to convictions, cautions, warnings and final reprimands. It does not include fixed penalty notices, penalty notices for disorder, or any other police or other out-of-court disposal.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found at criminal record checks for employment
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Question – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

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