I'm a freelance social-documentary photographer working in the UK. I'm currently commissioned by a third-sector organisation to photograph other third-sector organisations at work. Typically for these things, much of the organisation falls to me. And, naturally this kind of work brings me in contact with children and vulnerable adults. Mostly, as I'm never left alone with any of the participants, I've not needed to have a DBS check. But now, I'm being asked by one organisation for an enhanced DBS. There seems to be two problems with this:

(1) Only employers can request an enhanced DBS check. I cannot request one myself. It's questionable that the body commissioning me can be classed as my employer.

(2) Assuming the organisation who commissioned me can be considered my employer, it seems that temporary workers cannot apply for an enhanced check. As I'll only be in the place in question for a few hours, I don't think I can be classed as anything but a temporary worker. Which means, the only BDS check I can get is the basic one.

Does anyone have any experience of this? Can anyone confirm if my understanding of the issues is correct?

I realise this is not strictly a photography question, but, I'm assuming I'm not the first working professional photographer who's come up against this.

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    Hi. I cannot help you at all, as I don't even live in the UK. However, wouldn't this question be better off at law.stackexchange.com, freelancing.stackexchange.com, or workplace.stackexchange.com ? This is meant to be a generic question, no back-door "this is OT!"-comment. – flolilo Jun 25 '18 at 16:10
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    Yeah, I agree with that. On topic here, but more likely to get a useful response at one of those other sites. – Please Read My Profile Jun 25 '18 at 16:44
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about a localized legal problem regarding employment status and background checks, and only peripherally about gaining access to certain areas for the eventual purpose of producing photographs. In the end, it matters not why you need access to a certain place, only that you need that access as a private contractor rather than as an employee. – Michael C Jun 25 '18 at 16:47
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    I'm a photographer who needs a DBS certificate to take photographs. In this situation the blooming certificate is just as important as having a camera with me. I'm struggling to see how that is off-topic. If the great David Hurn can write about the importance of good shoes, then surely something that's absolutely essential to get the job done is definitely on-topic? – mooie Jun 27 '18 at 16:31

In answer to my own question, here's the less than ideal situation that currently prevails for the self-employed. This answer is only applicable to England. The Scots and Northern Irish administer their own systems that may, or may not, differ from the English system. I just don't know.

Firstly a self-employed person cannot apply for a Standard or Enhanced DBS certificate themselves, only an employer or "umbrella organisation" can do that on their behalf. A self-employed person can only apply for a Basic DBS certificate directly. But, a Basic DBS certificate does not allow you to work with vulnerable people — so in my case, this won't do.

However, a self-employed person can use what is called an "umbrella organisation" who will then apply for a Standard or Enhanced check on their behalf. Some charge a fee in addition to the fees the Government charges for issuing the certificates. Other umbrella organisations do not charge. So obviously choose one that offers a free service!

Once you've received the DBS certificate, you then have to register with the "DBS Update Service" within 30 days of the certificate's date. Doing so keeps the certificate current indefinitely (so you never have to apply again) provided you pay the annual fee, which is currently £13.

This is the route I'm now going to take. I'll try to remember to post an update as to how I get on.

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  • I should point out this was the advice I received from the DBS's own advice line. This is the official route that the self-employed have to take, and not some shady workaround. – mooie Jun 27 '18 at 16:16

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