One of the most common questions we get regarding DBS checks for employers at Aaron's Department is "Why has the DBS application been stuck at stage 4 so long?".

The majority of our applications are fully processed within 2 or 3 days, with the rest usually being done within a week. There are, however, cases where a DBS Check can take longer than expected.

For employers wanting a DBS check for staff, this can be extremely frustrating as you have to wait longer than expected to get employees into work.

But why is this? Well, in this blog we're going to take a look and discuss why this can happen!

Stages of a DBS Application - Aaron's Department & The DBS

Before we get into it, lets remind ourselves of the stages a DBS check goes through:

Aaron's Department DBS Stages

When you send in a DBS request to Aaron's Department, we put the application through 3 stages to ensure it can be processed and completed in minimal time.

Stage 1 - Electronic Error Checking and Verification

Every submitted application is automatically checked by our in-house software for any errors, omissions, or mistakes that may have been made.

Stage 2 - Human Review

No matter the application, Basic, Standard, or Enhanced, one of our experts will double-check to ensure the information is correct. Whilst our system spots 95% of errors, others may not be so obvious, and can only be discovered by someone with years of experience. Of course, any errors found are rectified, or if needed, we will ask the applicant for further clarification.

Stage 3 - Countersigning

Once one of our countersignatories is happy, they will sign it off and send it to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

All this is done to ensure your money, or time isn't wasted. If the DBS rejects an application due to false information/errors, it is highly unlikely you will get your money returned.

We don't want you to lose out, which is why we take pride in the outstandingly low rate of DBS applications we have rejected.

We always aim to ensure these 3 stages are completed the same day we receive the application.

DBS Application Stages

These stages are carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service which includes the "infamous" Stage 4.

Stage 1 - DBS Application Received

The DBS will check for any errors. But if you've used our service, they shouldn't find any! Any error will result in either rejection, or further information being requested.

Stage 2 - Police National Computer (PNC) Search

Key information is compared against the PNC computer for any matches.

If a Basic DBS Check has been requested, it will skip to Stage 5 after this has been completed.

Stage 3 - Children and Adults' Barred Lists Searched (Enhanced DBS Checks Only)

If a Children's and/or Adults Barred List check is needed for the role, then the Barred List database will be checked for any information that may prevent the individual from engaging in regulated/unsupervised activity.

Since a Standard DBS check doesn't have this, it goes straight to Stage 4.

Stage 4 - Local Police Record Check (Enhanced DBS Check Only)

Here's the troublemaker! A Standard or Enhanced DBS Check is sent to the local police forces for an additional check, to see if there is any relevant information that should be included in the applicants report.

Why can this sometimes take so long? We'll discuss that in just a few seconds.

Stage 5 - The Application is Completed

Once checked and completed, the applicants DBS certificate is ready for printing. Once done (in highly secure conditions), it is posted to the applicant, not the employer.

The applicant can then reveal the information contained on the DBS certificate to the employer. At Aaron's Department, as a registered body, we are able to give employers a summary of the DBS Check at this stage, so you know straight away if it came back clear. This allows you to get your staff into work quicker.

Why Can a DBS Check Take So Long at Stage 4?

It's important to note that every few applications get stuck at Stage 4! More often than not, they will not have delays, and will pass through the 5 stages within a matter of days.

However, main reason it can longer is often due to the applicant living at different addresses. Because of this, each local police force (to the address) will have to do a check. Whilst some may do it straight away, others can take a little longer.

As with all things in life, you just need one police force to take a little longer than the rest to cause a delay!

Changes in personal details, such as first names and surnames can also add delays as each the police force will have to check details against the different names. Miss Jane Smith might not have committed an offence, but Mrs Jane Thompson might have! Common names can also cause problems, for example there are over 6000 people called David Smith living in the UK. If an applicant has a common name, then each police force has to ensure any data and information they have on file is for the right person.

Can You Speed Up Stage 4?

Unfortunately, no Umbrella body can do anything to speed it up, unless the application has been in Stage 4 for 60 days or more.

The Disclosure and Barring service have very strict rules, and we are only allowed to chase up an application once the 60 days have passed. If one of our applications goes past this date then you will not have to call to chase us, we will be on to it straight away. Immediately one of our countersignatories at Aaron's Department will chase up the application with the DBS, highlighting the problem and ensuring it is prioritised at each Police force.

After being made a priority, the local police force(s) holding up the check will usually get it done with 10 days.

What If Nothing Happens After This?

If after 70 days an application still has not been still not been completed, then we are again allowed to contact the DBS to find out which Police force is delaying the process. We will then contact that Police force and try and encourage them to finally complete the check.

Although we have to follow the rules of the Disclosure and Barring Service, we always proactively chase up an application to get it completed in the shortest possible time.

How Do I Know What Stage My Application Is At?

Aaron's Department's service includes an online and email tracking service, so you are kept up to date with the application. Simply log into your account, or keep an eye out for the emails we send you.

If you have other questions about anything relating to the DBS, the answer to your question may be on our help and advice page. You can also feel free to give one of our experts a call on 0113 877 0171, or send an email to