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.
Churches and charitable organisations in England and Wales will likely need to carry out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on those working with children, young people and vulnerable adults at risk. Beyond England and Wales, other organisations may have similar safeguarding checks they are required to carry out. Although this case study focuses on the process as it relates to an organisation in England or Wales, the principles in this article can be easily adapted.
The process of carrying out a DBS check usually involves lots of back and forth 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 ministry overseers informed at each stage of the process, sending timely notifications when tasks become due or overdue. Flows enable you to delegate tasks effectively 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 process of identifying people who need a DBS check, and how to use two Flows to process people through their "DBS check in progress" and then into an "Awaiting next DBS renewal" Flow.
Establishing who needs a DBS check
Your organisation's 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 if 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 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 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 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 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 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 is 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 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 renewal becomes due. 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 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 then we'll set each person's renewal date in that Flow based on when 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 next DBS renewal becomes due.
If you're unfamiliar with Flows, do take a look at ChurchSuite's Flows support article. Essentially, Flows are a feature designed to help break down repetitive tasks into defined stages of a process. Each Stage has Actions that can be optionally performed. Helpfully, Flow stages can be delegated to different Users who can in turn receive the reminder notifications when their assigned tasks become due (example below). Administration teams often have lots of repetitive contact-management tasks, like Discipleship Year Applications, Newcomer Integration, Team Member Vetting, Small Group Assignment, and 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 Flow, a perfectly adequate "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow could look like this - a single Stage...
In this Flow, the designated Overseers will receive a weekly Flow digest email and flow reminders on Mondays only. 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 have Assigned the "Awaiting Renewal" Stage to a designated User - perhaps the person responsible for initiating DBS renewals when people's DBS becomes due. They would receive email reminder notifications on Mondays of the Due and Overdue people in their Flow and will continue to receive them until either the actions are processed (task completed), the due people are delegated to another User to action, or the task is postponed to a later due date.
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 35 months after each contact is added to this Flow stage. You'll enter a default due date in line with your own organisation's DBS renewal policy. For those who already have a current DBS, they'll initially be added to the Flow with this 35-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 will only need to do this task once for our existing DBS-checked people.
Let's look at the three Actions that will be performed when people are processed through this Flow. 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 person 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 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, the "DBS Current Certified" Tag will not yet exist, so you will need to add this empty tag in the Tags section of the Address Book before proceeding:
The second action will add the contact to the "DBS In Progress" Flow. Again, when creating this Flow, that additional Flow will 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 later when that second Flow has been created.
The final action will process people out of the "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow as "Completed". Once each person's new "DBS check in progress" is completed they'll be moved back into this Flow again, where they'll remain until their next 35-month renewal due date. For now, save your newly created "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow.
Now, as a one-time task, and 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 35 months from the date you added them to the Flow. Click the Process button for each person in turn...
...and use the date picker to set the Due date to match the appropriate future date when their DBS check is due for renewal. For example, if their current certificate is next due for renewal on 5th March 2024, use the date picker to select that future date.
Once amended, the Due date will update and save automatically. Click the "X" in the top right corner of the pop-up - don't click Run Actions; you won't do that until their actual due date arrives. Repeat this step of picking the appropriate due date for each person awaiting renewal. This is an unavoidably manual task, as each person's future renewal date will likely be different.
In the next section, we'll create a more elaborate Flow used 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 - now excluding people who currently have a valid DBS but are awaiting renewal i.e. just those 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, and receives their 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 processes into Stages and Actions.
In my church, we used the CCPAS (The Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service) eBulk online DBS system, now called 'thirty-one:eight'. CCPAS are an independent Christian safeguarding charity that offers 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 outline below broadly follows 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 the Presets section of the Administrator area...
- 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 of urgency, or to contact the office if there is a problem.
- Email 3 confirms the 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, that their DBS check is in progress, and that 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 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 suggest using the Branded Header email Template for these Presets, so that your organisation logo and colour styling are used for these important communications. Having prepared the 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 functions as follows:
- 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 them 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 a 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.
- 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 a 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 35 months.
Adding 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 Stages - using the +Add stage button - and add Actions and Settings as shown in the above screenshots.
Try to keep the actions in a logical order and note the Default state for each Action - some actions should have a ticked default state, and others are unticked to give the User a choice when they are processing people through the Flow. Set the Due days for each stage - you can adjust 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 the ID Check Stage. Otherwise, send a DBS reminder email and hold them at this stage and set a due date for another 10 days. Re-send the "Request" email if necessary.
Stage 3 - ID Checking
Awaiting ID check. When the ID is 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 the ID check is completed and adjust the 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 it 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 the next or previous stages, but be careful not to Process any of the other actions prematurely for that Stage!
The setup for this Flow may take a little time to complete and get existing people in the right places in the Flow. Once the two 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 the "DBS In a Ministry requiring DBS Check" Smart Tag
Having now added all your existing "in progress" people to your "DBS In Progress" Flow, let's update the "DBS In a Ministry requiring DBS Check" 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 first Stage of the "DBS in Progress" Flow.
Remember to update your Flow actions
Having created this second Flow, don't forget to return to your "DBS Awaiting Renewal" Flow and add in the "Add to flow" Action for "DBS In Progress", to complete 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 "View", 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 the "DBS In Progress" Flow. In the first stage, click the Process button for each person in turn. In this example, Brenda's DBS renewal is ready to be started.
At each Stage in the Flow, you have the option to change the Due date, perhaps to postpone processing them to a later date, and the option to change which User is Assigned to action the person in this stage. After updating, close the process page by clicking the "X" in the top right corner if you wish to ensure no further actions are processed. On the Process pop-up, review the Instructions.
At each Stage, there is an Add note option on the Details tab of the pop-up, 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.
Back on the Actions tab, 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 is 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 an email notification when the next stage is due for processing. At that next stage, find the person in the correct stage of the Flow and click the Process button. Tick to select the appropriate email - once you do, you again have the option to personalise the 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. If required, you again 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 35-month 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 Flows status is shown on the contact's profile page within the Engagement tab:
...and that the "DBS Current Certified" Tag is assigned on the Details tab, so you can see at a glance that this person has a current DBS...
... and the historic Key Dates also show any previous DBS renewal activity on the Key Dates tab.
Whereas, an "in progress" person's renewal will have a different Flows status...
... and a different Tag showing on their profile page.
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 at risk. It's worth remembering that an under 18 is classed as a child and is therefore afforded additional safeguarding protections. You should therefore probably seek parental consent before asking an under-18 for a DBS check.
I 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 email@example.com
All the best!