Diocese of Chichester Safeguarding

There is no simple answer to this question: in some situations Churchwardens and PCC members will need to be DBS checked but for many parishes they will not. The Charity Commission recommends that trustees (which is the appropriate term in this context) always obtain a DBS check when eligible to do so. The advice below is presented to assist churches to decide whether their PCC members are eligible for DBS checks or not. 

The overall principle is as follows:

If a governing body is registered as a charity and provided it sponsors and approves, in its own name, children’s, young people or vulnerable adult’s work then the members of the governing body will be eligible for an Enhanced DBS without barred-list check. This may relate to PCCs, Cathedrals Chapters, Religious Communities, NCI Pension Board etc. In such cases all members of the governing body will be eligible.

What does this mean?

Charity trustees (i.e. PCC members) are eligible for enhanced DBS disclosures (without barred list checks) if, and only if, the charity (i.e. the church) qualifies as a “children’s charity” or a “vulnerable adults’ charity”. If the church qualifies as a 'children's charity or a 'vulnerable adult's charity', then PCC members are eligible and should be checked. If the church does not qualify, PCC members are not eligible and should not. 

How do we know whether our church is a children's or vulnerable adult's charity? 

Provision of a Sunday School will generally not satisfy this requirement because the teaching of children in church on Sundays is, as a matter of law, an activity carried out in furtherance of the incumbent’s duty (under Canon C 24.4) to “instruct the parishioners of the benefice, or cause them to be instructed, in the Christian faith”. PCCs have no specific duties in relation to providing instruction in the Christian faith. Therefore, 'general' activities such as Sunday School, and others such as Homegroups attended by some adults who may be vulnerable, will be an extension of the incumbent's cure of souls rather than a specific ministry which the PCC sponsors and approves in its own name. 

A careful analysis will be required to see whether the PCC does qualify; there can be no blanket approach. For example, if a PCC is a charity and it sponsors and approves, in its own name, work with children, young people or vulnerable adults, for instance by entering into an employment contract with a youth worker to run a youth club or other children’s activities or entering into a contractual arrangement with a worker to provide a regular care service to adults who receive a health or social care service, then the PCC may qualify as a children’s or vulnerable adults’ charity (as the case may be) and in such circumstances PCC members would be eligible for an enhanced DBS check. If you are not sure whether or not your PCC meets these criteria, you are advised to seek advice from the registrar in relation to such matters. 

If our church does meet the criteria, what level of DBS check should we complete on PCC members? 

 PCC members, even if the church does meet the criteria set out above, are not by virtue of their membership of the PCC engaging in ‘Regulated Activity’ with children or vulnerable adults and are therefore not eligible for enhanced DBS disclosures with the addition of a barred-list checks. If the church does meet the criteria, they should be checked at 'Enhanced' level but without the barred-list check.