DBS Checks are a vital part of safeguarding when working in regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults. But what exactly constitutes a ‘vulnerable adult’?

If you’re hiring or applying for a role which may involve contact with vulnerable adults and you’re unsure of the definition, we’ve put together this quick guide to help explain.


Who does the DBS deem as a ‘vulnerable adult’?

A vulnerable adult is an adult who for any reason is unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves from exploitation. They can range from 16 years old and onwards.

If a 16-year-old is out of full time education, they would then be classed as an adult and could fall into the vulnerable adult category if they met set criteria.

If a person is in full time education between the ages of 16 and 18 they would be classed as a child within the DBS criteria, and would become an adult when they turn 18.

An adult is considered vulnerable if they require regulated activity to be provided to them.


What is ‘regulated activity’?

‘Regulated activity’ is a classification used to determine what level of DBS Check an employee or volunteer should have.

If a role involves working in regulated activity, the applicant will be required to undergo an enhanced DBS Check with a check of the relevant barred list.

Regulated activity can relate to either children or vulnerable adults, and there are two corresponding barred lists.

The children’s and adults’ barred lists are maintained by the DBS, and list individuals who have been barred from working with those groups.

It’s against the law to employ someone in a role which involves working in regulated activity with vulnerable adults and/or children if they’ve been barred from doing so.

Below, we have provided all examples of regulated activity with adults, someone must be in to be eligible to request the check of the adults’ barred list.


Regulated activity with vulnerable adults

There are six categories which fall under the definition of working in regulated activity with vulnerable adults:

  • Healthcare for adults provided by a regulated healthcare professional
  • Someone who is working under the direction or supervision of a regulated healthcare professional
  • Personal care for adults involving:
    • Hands-on physical assistance with washing and dressing
    • Eating, drinking and going to the toilet
    • Prompting and supervising an adult with any of these tasks because of their age, illness or disability
    • Teaching someone to do one of these tasks
  • Social work – provision by a social care worker or social work which is required in connection with any health services or social services
  • Assistance with an adult’s cash, bills or shopping because of their age, illness or disability arranged via a third party
  • Conveying adults for reasons of age, illness or disability to, from, or between places, where they receive healthcare, personal care or social work arranged via a third party
  • Day-to-day management or supervision of anyone carrying out any of the activities listed above


Who is not classed as a ‘vulnerable adult’?

The following would not be classed as ‘vulnerable adults’:

  • Someone receiving personal care for a reason unrelated to their age, illness or disability – i.e. someone getting a haircut because they would like one
  • Refugees
  • A 16-18 year old in full-time education



We hope that this blog has helped you to understand the scope of the term ‘vulnerable adult’, as well as the associated level of DBS Check required when engaging in regulated activity with vulnerable adults.

Be sure to get in touch with us if you have any further questions. You can apply for a number of DBS Checks through our simple online platform – most checks are completed within 48 hours. Get started now.

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Our blogs are advisory in nature and reflect uCheck Limited’s current thinking about best and common practice in the subjects discussed.

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