Case Study: Using ChurchSuite to help manage DBS renewals

About the author...

Paul, and his wife Fiona, used to lead the Vineyard church in Bournemouth, UK. Paul now heads up customer support and training at ChurchSuite. In this article he explores how some of the features in your ChurchSuite admin-facing system can be used to help you stay on top of DBS renewals.

Introduction

All churches in England and Wales will carry out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on people who work with children or vulnerable adults at risk on behalf of the church. Churches outside of England and Wales may have similar safeguarding checks that they are required to carry out on people working with vulnerable people groups on behalf of their church. Although this case study focuses on the process as it relates to a church in England or Wales (i.e. DBS), the principles can be applied to churches worldwide and be easily adopted from the format suggested in this article.

The process of carrying out a DBS check usually involves lots of "to-ing and fro-ing" as you chase people up to complete the next part of the process. Flows will be a big help with this, as they're designed to keep you informed as you process people through each stage of their check, sending you timely notifications when actions become due or overdue. You can also easily delegate tasks within a Flow - perhaps having the ID checking carried out by a designated person on your team.

In this article

In this case study we'll explore three key areas where ChurchSuite can help you:

Establishing who needs a DBS check, using Smart Tags
Maintaining a register of those awaiting their next DBS check, using a Flow
Keeping on top of those going through the DBS check renewal process, using a Flow

Finally, we'll work through the entire workflow of identifying people who need a DBS check, and how to use the two Flows we've created to process them through their "DBS check in progress" and into "Awaiting next DBS renewal".

Establishing who needs a DBS check

Your safeguarding policy and internal policies are the starting place for determining the scope of who in your organisation is required to have DBS checks and how often those checks are carried out. Since a DBS check is technically only valid on the day that it is produced, churches will periodically re-check people - perhaps every 2-3 years, or sooner is there is a cause for concern. While not always practical, ideally a DBS check should be carried out before someone begins working with children or vulnerable adults at risk, however some church's policies may allow for certain "known" people to work in a supervised role while their DBS check is being completed.

Typically DBS checks are required for people serving in ministries (either in a paid or voluntary capacity) that work with children or vulnerable adults at risk. Do be aware that the DBS is very strict on which roles are be covered by a DBS and it is unlawful to request a DBS for someone not in an eligible role.

You may already have each of the above "groupings" of people tagged in your Address Book or Children module, or they may exist as a Ministries in your Rotas module, or defined as Roles in the Small Groups module. If not, you can easily create Ministries in your Rotas module and assign people to those ministries (you don't have to create rotas for ministries if that's not applicable e.g. trustees, interns); or if you don't have the Rotas or Small Groups module, you can simply create Fixed Tags for those groupings.

The next step is to pull all those various groupings together into a single list - Smart Tags will do this really easily. The advantage of using a Smart Tag is that once it's created, it will remain up to date as your data changes. So as you add/remove small group leaders or add to your volunteer teams, that Smart Tag will always reflect the latest list of people needing a DBS check - although you should periodically review your Smart Tag to make sure the list of groupings included are up to date.

Here's an example of the Smart Tag conditions you might have. What you want to aim for is a single Smart Tag that matches all people who are in eligible roles requiring a DBS: -

The Smart Tag, which I've simply called "Ministries/Roles requiring a DBS Check", matches against all contacts in the Address Book and includes everyone who is in one or more of the groupings specified by the module/option/values listed. If someone is in multiple groupings, they'll only be included in the Smart Tag results once.

From your results, you'll no doubt be able to identify people that already have a current DBS. In the next section we'll create a Flow for all those "current DBS" people and assign the due date for their next renewal. That Flow will essentially serve as a "holding tank" until their DBS check becomes due for renewal. Later in this article we'll return to this Smart Tag again and we'll add a couple of additional conditions that will exclude 1) those who already have a current DBS check (i.e. in our "DBS awaiting renewal" Flow), and 2) those whose DBS check is in progress (i.e. in a "DBS renewal in progress" Flow). After those changes the Smart Tag will show you those in eligible roles who don't have a DBS in progress or awaiting renewal.

Maintaining a register of those awaiting their next DBS check

For this next step you'll to need to refer to your existing DBS records, as you'll need a list of the current DBS checks you have, and the date of the last disclosure.

In this case study we're going to create two Flows. We'll begin with a simple Flow into which we'll add all the people who have a current DBS check (based on the renewal frequency determined by your Safeguarding policy), and we'll set each person's renewal date in that Flow based on their current DBS expires and when it needs renewing. ChurchSuite will use the Flow "due date" to trigger the automatic reminder notifications to the Flow's overseer when their DBS renewal becomes due.

If you're not yet familiar with Flows, do take a look at ChurchSuite's Flows support article. Essentially Flows help you to break down repetitive contact-management tasks into manageable stages. Each Stage has Actions that can optionally be performed when the contact is processed from one stage to the next (e.g. sending an email, assigning a Key Date, moving a contact on to another stage within the Flow). Flow stages can optionally be delegated to different Users so that they receive the reminder notifications when tasks become due. Obviously church administration has lots of repetitive contact-management tasks - like Discipleship Year Applications, Newcomer Integration, Team Member Vetting, Small Group Assignment, Newcomer Meal Invitations/Planning - Flows can help you keep all these different contact-management tasks organised!

While you may wish to be more elaborate with the design of your own Flow, a perfectly adequate "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow could look simply like this - a single Stage...

In this Flow two Overseers are assigned - they'll get a digest email and flow reminders on 3 days each week. This Flow is Visible in 2 modules - the Address Book and Children module - some older youth may require a DBS.

If you wish, you can restrict who the Flow is Visible to; however, doing so may create barriers that prevent Users from being able to add new people to the Flow. In leadership I found it more helpful to have this flow visible to 'All users' so that there was transparency about who was DBS-checked and who wasn't.

In the example above, I could have Assigned the "Awaiting Renewal" Stage to a designated User - perhaps the person responsible to handling DBS renewals. Had I assigned that Flow Stage to a User, they would receive the email notification each time someone's DBS check falls due. That same User will receive email reminders - on 3 days each week - of due and overdue actions until either 1) the actions are processed (task completed), 2) the actions are delegated to another User, or 3) the task is postponed.

In the example above you'll notice I've added three Actions to the Flow Stage "Awaiting Renewal". These actions are set to become Due 36 months after a contact is added to this Flow stage. You'll enter a default due date in line with your own church's DBS renewal policy. For those who already have a current DBS, they'll initially be added to the Flow with this 36 month renewal date assigned, so we'll need to manually edit and change that system-assigned 'due date' to reflect their actual renewal due date (we'll only need to do this once for our existing DBS-checked people).

Let's look at the Actions that will be performed when contacts are processed through this Flow Stage. The first action will remove any existing "DBS Current Certified" Tag from the contact. If they've not had a DBS check before, they won't have that Tag, so no action will be performed when the contact is processed. However, as we'll see in the next section, if they've previously had a DBS check, they'll be tagged with "DBS Current Certified" to designate that they have a current DBS check on record - this first Flow action simply removes that Tag when they are processed out of the "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow and into the "DBS in progress" Flow.

Note: When creating this Flow yourself, the "DBS Current Certified" Tag may not yet exist in your Tags library, so you'll need to create it by selecting --New Tag-- from the Setting drop-down list.

The second action will add the contact to the "DBS In Progress" Flow; in effect, moving them from "awaiting renewal" to "renewal in progress". Again, when creating this Flow yourself, that additional Flow may not yet exist (we'll create that Flow later in this case study), so you'll need to make a note to return to this Flow to add this second action in later when that second Flow has been created.

The final action will remove them from the "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow, essentially marking that Flow as completed for that person. Once each person's new DBS check has been completed they'll be returned to this Flow again, where they'll remain until their 36 month due date comes around next. For now, save your newly created "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow.

Now, working from your existing DBS check records, for each person for whom you hold an existing DBS disclosure, add that contact into your "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow. You can do this using the Add to flow button at the top of each person's profile page.

Notice the Search option on the Add to flow pop-up - you can search and select multiple people to add to the "DBS Awaiting Renewal" flow without needing to go to each person's profile individually - this will save you some time.

Having assigned all your existing DBS people to the "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow we now need to update the "due date" for each person so that reminder notifications are sent on the correct renewal due date (remember, by default, they'll have been assigned a due date of 36 months from the date you added them to the Flow, but some will likely be due sooner).

Using their current disclosure certificate date, click the Process button for each person in turn...

...and click the Change button to change the renewal Due date to the correct future date when the DBS check is due for renewal.

Once amended, click to 'save' the new renewal due date and then click the "X" in the top right corner of the Process window - Don't click Run Actions; you won't do that until their actual due date arrives. Repeat this step, setting the correct renewal "due date" for each person who already has a DBS check.

In the next section we'll look at creating the slightly more elaborate Flow that you'll use to manage the actual DBS renewal process. Before doing that, let's return to the Smart Tag we created earlier and add in a new batch condition (click the Add condition batch button) to exclude all the contacts in our "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow, as follows...

Be sure to select the red cross (rather than the green tick) so that we get a "Not in flow" result. Remember to Save the changes. The list of contacts now matched by your Smart Tag should be much shorter - excluding people awaiting renewal and comprising just those people who don't have a current DBS check in progress.

Keeping on top of those going through the DBS check renewal process

The actual workflow for renewing someone's DBS check can be quite complex and drawn out - we seem to be forever chasing people to get the next thing done! You may find it helpful to map out what your DBS check renewal process workflow looks like; all the different stages you'll work through as a person completes their DBS check application, submits their ID for verification, through to receipt of the final DBS disclosure that you'll log in ChurchSuite. At each stage of your workflow there may be a wide variety of actions - perhaps telephone calls, emails, assigning tags and key dates. We'll now create a Flow to translate those process into Stages and Actions.

In my church we used the CCPAS (The Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service) eBulk online DBS system. CCPAS are an independent Christian safeguarding charity who offer churches in England and Wales an accessible and cost-effective online DBS processing service. Other online DBS processing services are of course available! The Flow I'll outline below will broadly follow the CCPAS workflow but you can tailor it to suit your own church's processes.

Before creating the "DBS in Progress" Flow, we first need to create five Preset emails that will be sent at different stages as people are processed through the Flow (created in Administrator > Presets)...

  • Email 1 is a DBS request email that will be sent to the person advising them that a DBS check is now required. The email will likely include an overview of the renewal process and how to log in to the CCPAS online DBS renewal system to complete their online application.
  • Email 2 is a reminder email explaining that the online application has not yet been completed and asking the person to complete this as a matter or urgency, or to contact the office if there is a problem.
  • Email 3 confirms successful completion of the online application and now reminds the serving team member to present their valid forms of ID for verification to a designated person.
  • Email 4 confirms the ID has been successfully verified and submitted to the DBS, and that their DBS check is in progress and once completed, their disclosure certificate will be issued to them. The email reminds the person that they must now provide you with the certificate so that it can be reviewed and noted in the church's safeguarding records. The disclosure will then be returned to the person for their own records.
  • Email 5 thanks the serving team member that their DBS check/renewal has now been fully completed and will be renewable again in 3 years.

As a DBS check is a formal process I would suggest using the Branded Header email Template for your Presets, so that your church's logo and styling is used in the communications.

Having prepared those five preset emails, let's now add our second Flow. Here's my example Flow in its entirety and then I'll comment on the Stages afterwards.

Essentially this 5- Stage "DBS in progress" Flow works as follows:

  1. On the Due date of someone being added to the Flow, ChurchSuite will send me a reminder notification that a task is due. At this stage I can send "email 1" requesting they to log into the CCPAS system and complete the online part of their DBS application. If your church uses printed DBS application forms then you might post that form to them with a letter explaining what to do. Tags and key dates are recorded so I can easily keep tabs on people when viewing their profile page (these are optional). They're then processed on to the next stage awaiting completion of the application.
  2. After ten days I'll get a ChurchSuite notification reminding me to check my CCPAS account to see if they've completed the online application. If they haven't, I can either send "reminder email 2", or re-send the request "email 1", or I may even telephone the person. I'll add a Note against the person to record what I've done. I may need to postpone the due date so that I get a further reminder to check on progress in a few days. I won't process them through to the next stage until the online/paper application is completed.
  3. Seven days after they've completed their application ChurchSuite will send me a reminder to verify the person's ID. They'll have been pre-warned about this when they completed their online application. A further key date will be added once the ID has been verified. If they've not been to see me with their ID I have the option to send a reminder "email 3". The person will remain at this stage until their ID is verified. I'll add a Note against the person to record what I've done. I may postpone the due date so that I get a further reminder to check again on progress in a few days.
  4. Fourteen days after their ID has been verified (and I'll have updated my CCPAS account with the ID that was checked), I'll check my CCPAS account again to see if the Disclosure & Barring Service have issued the disclosure. Typically this can take from 10 to 60 days depending on the amount of checking that they have to do, so I may need to keep postponing the due date until the DBS disclosure is issued. They'll remain at this stage until the disclosure is issued to the person, at which point I'll send reminder "email 4" asking the person to let me see their DBS disclosure and process them to the next stage. I'll add a Note against the person to record what I've done. I may postpone the due date so that I get a further reminder to check on progress in a few days.
  5. Seven days after confirmation that the disclosure has been produced, if I've not already been provided with the DBS disclosure I'll phone the person to remind them. I could optionally move them back to "stage 4" and re-send the reminder email. I'll add a Note against the person to record this. They'll remain at this stage until they present the disclosure to me. Once I have their physical disclosure and I've reviewed it, I'll then process them out of the Flow - this will add a Tag that their 'DBS is renewed', a Key Date and key date Description representing the certificate date and certificate number. The person will also be sent "email 5" thanking them for their time and letting them know the next renewal will be in 3 years. The final Flow actions will remove the person from the "DBS in progress" flow (now completed) and add the person to the "DBS awaiting renewal" Flow, where they'll remain until the next renewal in 36 months.
Creating the Flow

As with the first Flow, give your "DBS renewal in progress" Flow a suitable name, set any optional visibility restrictions, and assign one or more Flow Overseers who will receive Flow digests and updates. Next, add 5 blank Stages - use the +Add stage button - and add Actions and Settings as shown in the above screen shots.

Try to keep the actions in a logical order and note the state of the Default tick box for each Action - some actions should have a ticked default state, others are unticked in order to give the User a choice when they are processing people through the Flow. Set the Due days for each stage - you can tweak these timings later if you need to extend the renewal process to suit your context.

Here's a note of the "Instructions" fields for each stage if you would like to copy and paste my examples.

Stage 1: Send DBS Request Email
Personalise (with organisation reference and password) and send the DBS Request email explaining that a DBS check is required (or that renewal of their DBS check is due).

Stage 2 - Awaiting Online Processing
Review DBS Control Panel to ensure the applicant has completed their online application. If they have, move to ID Check Stage. Otherwise, send DBS reminder email and hold them at this stage and set due date for another 10 days. Re-send "Request" email if necessary.

Stage 3 - ID Checking
Awaiting ID check. When ID provided check ID is correct and complete the ID verification in the CCPAS DBS Control Panel. Send ID Check Reminder email if necessary. Hold at this stage until ID check completed and adjust due date accordingly.

Stage 4 - Request DBS Certificate
Awaiting DBS check to be completed by DBS and for the certificate to be issued. Monitor CCPAS DBS Control Panel for completion. Request sight of DBS certificate from the serving team member.

Stage 5 - DBS Certificate Presented
When the volunteer presents their new DBS certificate, photocopy it and place on the secure file. Add a Key Date to match the Certificate Date. Note the DBS Certificate Number in the Key Date description. Process them out of this Flow into the DBS Renewals Flow and set the due date for 3 years from the certificate date.

Add your existing "In progress" people to the Flow

Following the same process as before, from each person's profile page, add each existing "in progress" person to the Flow. On the Add to flow pop-up you can also select the correct Stage to add them to. If you need to, move people around to next or previous stages, but be careful not to Process any of the other actions prematurely for that Stage!

All the above may take you a little time to get created and get existing people in the right places in the Flow. This is the hard work part! Once these Flows are set up, managing them in the future will be considerably easier, and the beauty of Flows is that they'll help you stay organised and in the loop of where people are at with the DBS checks and renewals.

Update your Smart Tag

Having now added all your existing "in progress" people to your "DBS In Progress" Flow, let's update our Smart Tag one last time. This time we'll add a second condition to the second batch, which will exclude people who are in this "DBS In Progress" Flow. Here's what your final Smart Tag conditions will look like...

Now, when you save your Smart Tag, the remaining list of people (if any) will be only those who need a DBS check and who don't currently have one and are not currently in progress. It may be you have an empty Tag - great, nothing more to do today! On the other hand, if you do have a list of people, you can now add them to your "DBS In Progress" Flow and get them started - use the Add to flow option at the top of the Smart Tag page...

...and add them to the correct Flow - "DBS in Progress".

Remember to update your Flow actions

Having created this second Flow, don't forget to return to your "DBS Awaiting Renewal" and add in the "Add to flow" Action for "DBS In Progress", to compete the navigation actions between your two Flows.

Workflow for new DBS checks

Having added all your existing DBS people in the correct Flow - either awaiting renewal or renewal in progress, let's walk through the User experience as you add and process new people through your two Flows.

As new people join ministries, tags, groups, or roles that require a DBS check, they'll automatically be tagged by your "Ministries/Roles requiring a DBS Check" Smart Tag. You'll need to periodically monitor this Tag to identify new people - ideally it should be empty as people will either be in progress or awaiting renewal.

From the Tag's "View" page select Add to Flow to add any new people to your "DBS in Progress" Flow. This will in turn untag them from the "Ministries/Roles requiring a DBS Check" tag.

Open your "DBS In Progress " Flow. At the first Stage click the Process button for each person in turn. In this example, Dave's DBS renewal is ready to be started.

At each Stage in your Flow you have the option to change the Due date, perhaps to postpone processing them to a later date. After updating a due date, close the process page by clicking the "X" in the top right corner to ensure no further actions are processed. On the Process window, review the instructions. At each Stage there is an Add note option and you can read previously-added notes left by yourself or other users - helpful to keep track of phone call conversations, tasks completed or responses the person may make.

You may wish to personalise 'Email 1' before you click Run Actions - click the Personalise button and make any changes to the email as necessary. Click Run Actions and all ticked actions will be processed. By default (unless you untick some of the actions) this will mean a Tag and Key Date are assigned, 'email 1' is sent, and the person will be moved to the next stage with a new processing due date set.

You'll get a notification when the next stage is due for processing. At that next stage, click the Process button. Here you have the option to personalise and send one of two emails - tick to select an email. Once the instructions are completed, Run Actions to move them on to the next stage.

You'll get a further email notification when the next stage is due for processing. At that next stage, click the Process button again. Here you have the option to personalise and send a 'reminder email' - tick to select the Send email action. Once the instructions are completed, Run Actions to add the Key Date and move them on to the next stage.

As you receive each Flow reminder notification, you'll continue to follow the Flow stage Instructions, add optional Notes and Process the appropriate Actions to move them to the next Stage.

And here's the final Stage. Again, follow the suggested instructions for this stage and process the person out of the Flow by clicking Run Actions. The person will be automatically added to your "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow and a 3 year renewal due date will be set.

In the above screenshot, notice that a Key Date of "DBS Complete/Certificated" has been added and that the Key Date 'description' field has been used to record a note of the actual Certificate number as a means of evidencing sight of the disclosure. You can now Run Actions for the last time to process them out of the renewals flow.

Note that the Flows status is shown on the contact's profile page and that the "DBS Current Certified" Tag is assigned, so you can see at a glance that this person has a current DBS and when it's next due for renewal. Historic Key Dates also show any previous DBS renewal activity further down the profile page.

...whereas an "in progress" person's renewal will have a different Flows status and Tag showing on their profile page.

I've colour-coded my DBS Tags green so that I can see at a glance if the person is DBS checked or in progress.

DBS and Under 18s

In the UK, churches are not permitted to request a DBS check for a child aged under 16, but they should carry out a DBS check on children aged 16+ if those children are working with other children or vulnerable adults of risk. It's worth remembering that an under 18 is classed as a child and are therefore afforded additional safeguarding protections. You should probably seek parental consent before asking an under 18 for a DBS check.

The process for DBS checks for under 18s (16+) is the same as for adults. In terms of your use of ChurchSuite, currently Flows are only a function of the Address Book module, so it will not be possible to add and process under 18s through your Flows; although you can create the same "Who needs a DBS?" Smart Tag in the Children module. Flows for the Children module will be coming in the near future though, so for the time being, if under 18s DBSs are needed, you'll have to manage those manually.

What next?

I really hope the above DBS management suggestions are helpful to your church. If you have any questions, do get in touch with the support team at ChurchSuite; we'd be delighted to help. Email support@churchsuite.com

All the best!

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