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An open letter to the new Prime Minister

As Rishi Sunak enters Downing Street, we've set out three things he could do now to make a difference to people with criminal records

Dear Rishi Sunak,

Congratulations on becoming Prime Minister, at what is such a critical time for the UK. As a national charity providing advice and support to some of the most marginalised people in the country, we want to set out some ways your government can act now to help people who are trying to move on positively with their lives.

The evidence continues to show that a key way to reduce reoffending and consequently improve public safety, is ensuring that people have access to employment and stable housing once they have completed their sentence. Successive governments have accepted this evidence and targeted policies to improve rehabilitation opportunities. Unfortunately, despite small steps towards change, few of these well-intentioned commitments have led to much-needed action. You have an opportunity to drive meaningful change on this issue, by following through on a few crucial policies.

Firstly, the government could make fair chance recruitment – including ‘ban the box’ – mandatory across government contracts. This would have a huge impact in itself, and would set a strong example to other business leaders. To increase access to employment for people with criminal records, we must send a clear signal that they will be judged on what they can bring to the workplace – not on their past.

Secondly, as you will know, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act passed this year introduced some positive changes to spending periods – meaning that thousands more people will have a fair chance to put their past mistakes behind them and contribute to society. However, although the law has changed, the new spending periods are not expected to take effect at the DBS for at least another year. The delay has been put down to IT problems, which is simply unacceptable given that the changes have been anticipated since the Ministry of Justice’s white paper was published in 2020. We urge you to investigate this delay and ensure that the roughly 100,000 people who should benefit from changes which parliament has agreed can do so as soon as possible.

Finally, Unlock, other organisations and individuals who have experienced serious crime recently responded to the government’s public consultation on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The so-called ‘exclusionary rule’ currently prevents victims of serious crime, including childhood sexual abuse, from accessing the compensation they need – simply because they have an unspent conviction. The new government must commit to responding to the results of the consultation in a transparent and timely manner, and work towards ending the hierarchy of victims that the rule creates.

We know what works to reduce reoffending, improve access to employment and make the system fairer – as demonstrated by the existing cross-government strategies on reoffending. We urge you to keep up this momentum and prove that your government believes in rehabilitation – with action, not just words.

Yours sincerely,

Angela Cairns

Chief Executive | Unlock

Written by:

Angela is Chief Executive of Unlock


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  1. Dear Angella, good day and hope you are well.
    I’ve been frustratingly looking for a solution for this problem for a while and I am so happy to have come across this website today, and so thrilled to read your so needed letter to our new priminister. I would love to volunteer so I can be part of the solution.

    All I can say is massive well done and keep up the good work. 😎

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Debbie Sadler
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