Scope of the inquiry
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) handles requests for disclosure of criminal records (or DBS checks) from employers and issues disclosure certificates. DBS checks are widely used by organisations across the public and private sector, such as schools and care homes, to check prospective employees and volunteers.
In 2009, the Home Office launched a programme to increase the efficiency of safeguarding services. It aimed to reduce the cost of running the disclosure service by offering customers a new and cheaper update service rather than continuing to use existing types of disclosure certificates. The Home Office expected 2.8 million paying users to be using the new update service by 2017–18, but it was not market tested and, in March last year, the actual number of users was around one million.
When the Public Accounts Committee investigated the Home Office’s modernisation of DBS in May last year, It found that “poor planning and contracting, delays, spiralling costs and the Department’s failure to understand what service users want” delayed the programme by four years and increased likely costs to £229 million more than initially planned.
In December 2018, the programme faced further challenges: the Home Office announced that DBS would launch a new procurement process for its IT services after concluding that a crucial online platform was “not suitable for further rollout”.
On Monday 11 March, the Public Accounts Committee will question Home Office officials and DBS leads on action that has been taken to turn the programme around. It will examine:
- The current status of the DBS modernisation programme;
- Timescales and costs;
- User demand for the service; and
- Expected savings.