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Paul – Don’t underestimate the benefits of volunteering as a way of getting back into paid work

Paul contacted our helpline as he wanted some help and advice about getting back into work after receiving a conviction for a sexual offence.

Paul explained that he’d had an exemplary work record until he disclosed his conviction to his employer. Although he had worked for the same organisation for a considerable amount of time, he was immediately suspended and then dismissed. Despite his excellent work history, and the fact that his offence was not related in any way to his work, when he asked his employers for a reference they only agreed to confirm that he had not been involved in any disciplinary action rather than comment on his work.

Having read posts on various forum’s, Paul believed that his chances of getting back into work in the future was going to be difficult and, as a result, there would be little opportunity for him to rebuild his life. He had worked in the care industry for many years but felt that his previous skills and experience had been rendered useless and that he would no longer be able to contribute fully to society.

We explained to Paul that our experience had shown that employers working with children or vulnerable adults were often the most risk adverse and that it can be difficult to get work in this field with anything other than a completely blank DBS certificate. However, Paul had a lot of skills and experience in several different fields and this was his one and only conviction. We agreed that the lack of a reference could present him with an additional problem and we suggested that whilst searching for paid work, he may want to consider undertaking some kind of voluntary work. This could provide him with additional skills/experience, to build up his self-confidence and hopefully, give him a reference that he could use when applying for paid work. We gave Paul some advice about the best way of disclosing his conviction to any potential voluntary organisation.

We pointed out to Paul that there are employers in the work place willing to give people with convictions a second chance and we provided him with a link to our list of friendly employers.

When we contacted Paul for an update on his situation he told us that following the discussion with us, he took our advice and applied for a voluntary role with a homeless charity. He had been working with individuals with criminal convictions, many of whom were deemed ‘unemployable’. This voluntary role had resulted in him securing an interview for a paid job with another homeless organisation.

Paul stated:

“I was really down when I rang Unlock but took their advice and found a voluntary job. It was a really healthy and useful way to keep my brain active and helped me to move on in the right direction. The information sent me was really appreciated and the support offered gave me the confidence to apply for both voluntary and paid work”



This case highlights the many benefits of volunteering especially if you are unable to get a reference from a previous employer or you have lost your confidence as a result of your conviction. Very often, voluntary positions can lead into paid work, either with the organisation you volunteer with or an associated one.


Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.


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