Criminal record checks

Fostering services across the UK have an obligation to undertake statutory checks on all fostering applicants and other household members aged 18 (and over 16 in Scotland).  This is to enable any criminal convictions, cautions or other information held by the police that raise issues of concern to be explored in relation to the household’s suitably to foster and so to help prevent children from being placed in potentially harmful situations.  

About criminal record checks

UK governments have legislative and statutory guidance that informs the assessment and approval process of fostering applicants including undertaking routine checks. There are slightly different rules for criminal records checks across the UK:

Criminal records checks are one of a number of checks designed as safeguards to help ensure, as far as possible, people who are approved to be foster carers are fit and appropriate adults. Some checks are statutory and others are undertaken as good practice: they include verification of identity, public records check, overseas checks and school references (where relevant), previous applications to foster, health and safety checks, personal, medical and employment references.

Most fostering services have local policy and practice to routinely update criminal records checks for their approved foster carers, other adult household members and sometimes for individuals involved in the care of any children via the foster carer support network. 

Principles of criminal record checks

The following principles should apply in terms of criminal records checks:
  • Public authorities and fostering services are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of children they look after in foster care. 
  • Fostering services should have a rigorous and consistent system for ensuring that checks are carried out thoroughly and to high standards.
  • Criminal records checks are only one aspect of ensuring effective and safe recruitment and workforce practices, and other mechanisms should be considered alongside them to ensure as far a possible a sound judgement about suitability to foster and care for children.
  • There is no legal requirement for a fostering service to repeat criminal records checks within a set period; however services can re-check approved foster carers when they think it is necessary and this should be reflected clearly in their local policy. In Scotland, the regulations state that local authorities should seek up-to-date enhanced disclosures every two years.