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Category: News & Media

Unlock’s annual report 2020/21

Each year we publish our annual report and accounts – which you can read in full on the Charity Commission’s website. In a year like no other, we’re proud that we continued to grow and develop our support, policy work and advocacy for people with criminal records. We’re also incredibly grateful to all the funders, individual donors and volunteers who support our work. Below is a summary of what we achieved in the year 2020-21.

Download the summary as a PDF

 

 

Want to ‘fix’ labour shortages? Start seeing the person, not their past

Last week, Dominic Raab called for employers to recruit people in and leaving prison to help plug the skills gap in an array of sectors, from haulage to hospitality. The Secretary of State rightly recognises this is a group of people who are unemployed and underemployed. In encouraging employers to give people a fair chance to get a job, the government is taking steps – albeit baby ones – to change the narrative around employing people with criminal records.  

Whilst we welcome these signs of change from government, they need to translate into more than just words of encouragement. A secure job, somewhere to live and support from family and friends are key to anyone living a positive life. Yet people with criminal records face challenges to this; long periods where they have to disclose their record to employers, housing providers and insurance companies – and even once a conviction is spent, someone’s past can resurface at the click of a Google search button.  When half of employers admit they would discriminate against someone with a criminal record, this matters.

Recent announcements from the government do nothing to address the barriers that stand between the almost 12 million people with a criminal record and a normal life. If we’re serious about getting people back into the workforce and into society, we need to make fundamental changes to a system that leaves people trapped in their past.  

We can’t view people as simply disposable assets who are rolled out at a time of crisis. People with criminal records are not part of a reserve army of labour. Nor will they all necessarily be able to work in an abattoir, drive an HGV lorry or make you the perfect coffee. But everyone deserves the chance of a job, a safe place to live and a sense of connection to their community.  

At Unlock, we want people to be employed because of their skills, experience and ability first and foremost. For this to happen, society needs to believe in rehabilitation, to believe that people can and do change. We need a criminal records disclosure system which is not unnecessarily punitive and arbitrary.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill going currently going through parliament goes a small way to reducing the time periods some people will have to disclose their criminal record, but it doesn’t go far enough. As we continue to campaign for further change, we ask employers to make a difference by seeing the person first – and recognising that in most cases, there is no need to ask someone about their criminal record before you meet them.  

If you’re an employer and want to find out more about criminal records and fair recruitment, visit our Recruit website.

Some examples of people we’ve helped

Looking back over the last couple of months, we’ve written up a few examples of the people we’ve helped.

We hope they give a good idea of how we help people.

More importantly, we think that these examples show how people with convictions are able to overcome some of the barriers that have been put in their way due to their criminal record.

We’ve posted the examples below as case studies in the support section of our website:

 

 

Barney – The discrimination I faced by insurers following my conviction was a real eye opener

Hilario – Being clear on disclosure rules allowed me to get settled status in the UK

StephanieHaving failed to get Google to remove links to my name an application to the ICO proved more successful

 

Some examples of people we’ve helped

Looking back over the last couple of months, we’ve written up a few examples of the people we’ve helped.

We hope they give a good idea of how we help people.

More importantly, we think that these examples show how people with convictions are able to overcome some of the barriers that have been put in their way due to their criminal record.

We’ve posted the examples below as case studies in the support section of our website:

 

 

Jaxon – I used Unlock’s list of insurance brokers to get public liability insurance

Maryam – I successfully challenged the police over the disclosure of my filtered caution

TommyA call to the Unlock helpline led to my conviction becoming spent and a new job

 

Reflections of an Unlock helpline volunteer

The first week of June is Volunteer Week – when charities across the country say thank you and showcase the amazing work of their committed volunteers. We asked one of our brilliant helpline volunteers to share their experiences of working with us. In this blog our volunteer (who we’re keeping anonymous to protect their privacy) shares their reflections on what volunteering has meant to them, and the impact of the last year on people with criminal records.

In 2019, having been in a profession I loved for the last ten years, I had to resign from my job as someone in the company found out about my historic conviction that was 12 years old at the time. Even though the relevant people already knew about it when I started, I still had to resign for the safety of my family.   

With no job I landed at the door of the Job Centre and the debacle that was Universal Credit, with a job coach that did not know what to do with me, we just went through the usual process. Being on the job scrap heap I decided to see what was out there I could do, and decided to see if there was any volunteer work I could do. I had always known about Unlock as I had used their helpline in the past, so when I saw on their website they were looking for volunteers, I sent off my application.  

Having successfully completed the interview I started as soon as I could, it was a weight off my shoulders to finally work for an organisation that did not care about my past and saw me for the skills and abilities I could bring to the organisation. For the first time in a long time I was not having to continually look over my shoulder worrying that someone from my past might recognise me.  

Before being let loose full training was given in all aspects of subjects that come across the helpline, and training on how to answer enquires that are received. What I found important was that you were not just thrown in the deep end and made to swim; the training was at the pace of the person undertaking it. Once my training was completed I started off answering emails and letters under supervision, then once I had accomplished this I moved onto the telephone. With my first day taking calls fast approaching the butterflies in my stomach were doing cart wheels, but with the training and support that was given by experienced team members these butterflies soon passed.   

This role has been extremely thought provoking. While offering advice and guidance to not only people with criminal records but also external stakeholders, it has made me realise how much support is required and how much at times the help is not there for individuals, and how many individuals face disadvantage and discrimination.  

While assisting on the charity’s helpline I have also assisted in a number of research tasks, including looking at housing policies of councils within the UK and how they affect a person with a criminal conviction.  

This insight along with the skills and knowledge I have gained in offering advice and guidance to people that contact the charity has made me see how important advocating for change is, and the job that we do helps a sector of society that is greatly penalised by the communities they live within.   

The skills and abilities I have gained have come to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic. The learning curve increased greatly in having to undertake remote working to ensure with other staff members that the helpline has been fully active and contactable to the public. This has included tracking criminal justice and Government websites for changes in legislation announced during the lockdown, for instance identifying changes to security vetting procedures and also the impact a person under ROTL has dealt with the implementation of the furlough scheme, and ensuring that this is correctly communicated.  

My work on the helpline continues as we get ready to return back to the office, and reflecting back I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given in learning new skills and abilities and will continue to volunteer for a long as I can. When volunteering you feel you have a purpose in life, when most other people turn their back on you. There is a great satisfaction when you realise that you have helped someone and you can hear in their voice or through the tears over the phone how much the advice and guidance you have given them has made such an impact on their life and helped in the problem they have called you about.  

 

Introducing our new CEO: Angela Cairns

We’re delighted to announce that experienced charity leader Angela Cairns will be the charity’s new Chief Executive, and will take up the role on Monday 17 May. 

Angela joins Unlock after five years as CEO of the criminal justice charity Shannon Trust. She has worked in the voluntary sector since 2002, supporting people to bring about positive change in their lives. Specialised in leading small organisations that punch above their weight, Angela has a strong track record in organisational development, frontline delivery and advocating for change. She is passionate about bringing the voices of people experiencing discrimination and disadvantage to the forefront of debate. 

Having recently celebrated the charity’s 21st birthday and launched an ambitious new strategy for the next five years, it’s an exciting time to welcome Angela’s energy, passion and expertise to the organisation.  

Mark Rowe, Chair of Trustees at Unlock, said: 

“Everyone at Unlockis delightedthat Angela is joining Unlock at this exciting time for the charity. She brings a wealth of leadership experience from her previous charity and criminal justice sector roles. She will be a hugely valuable asset for Unlock as we build on our successes to date and begin to deliver our ambitious new strategic planto continue support our beneficiaries.” 

Angela said: 

“I’m delighted to be joining the fantastic team at Unlock as we roll out a new five-year strategy. Together we will continue bringing about positive change with and for people with criminal records who are effectively serving a second sentence.” 

Our Spring 2021 newsletter

Today we’ve published our Spring 2021 newsletter.

The newsletter provides an update of the news at Unlock in the last three months, and we hope it’s a useful way of keeping up to date with what we’ve been up to.

Read: Spring 2021 newsletter

Previous newsletters are available online here. You can receive future newsletters direct to your inbox by signing up to our mailing list.

Monthly update – March 2021

We’ve just published our update for March 2021.

This months update includes:

  1. New information on sexual offence convictions: what you need to know.
  2. An advice post setting out what you do (and do not) need to disclose when applying for a job with probation.
  3. personal story which looks at the true cost of an IPP sentence. 
  4. link to a discussion on theForum from an individual looking for advice on applying for a visa to visit the USA.
  5. A link to a report published by Unlock on the impact of criminal records on women.

The full update provides a summary of:

  1. the latest updates to our self-help information site for people with convictions
  2. recent posts to our online magazine, theRecord
  3. discussions on our online forum
  4. other news and developments that might be of interest to individuals with a criminal record.

Read the March 2021 update in full.

Best wishes,

Unlock

Notes

  • All previous updates can be found in full in the ‘Latest updates’ section of our Information Hub
  • For more self-help information, please visit unlock.devchd.com/information-and-advice/
  • If you have any questions about this information, please contact our helpline
  • If you’ve been forwarded this email, you can sign up to receive these updates directly by clicking here and selecting to receive ‘News/updates for people with convictions’
  • If you have found this information use, please leave us your feedback and/or consider making a donation.

Happy 21st Birthday Unlock!

This year Unlock celebrates its 21st birthday, which we’re marking on the same day we publish our ambitious new strategic plan for 2021-26. Alongside the new strategy, we’re launching our new strapline: ‘for people with criminal records‘. We’ve chosen to do this because – although a subtle change to our language – we believe it’s the most inclusive way to talk about the people we exist to help.

From the very beginning Unlock has been led by the experiences and expertise of people with criminal records, and our new strategy is no exception. The priorities we’ve set out have been guided by what people with criminal records have suggested we should focus on. Although the Covid-19 pandemic meant we had to get creative in how we did this, we were still able to engage with over 200 individuals to get their input into our future priorities, nearly 80% of whom were people with criminal records, and the remaining 20% were family, friends and professionals supporting them.

Our vision is of a fair and inclusive society where people with criminal records are free from stigma, prejudice and discrimination. The priorities and activities set out in our new strategy will help us to get there. Find out more about how we’re measuring our progress.

We’re excited about where we’re going, and proud of where we’ve come from. Throughout the day we’ll be sharing kind birthday messages from some of the people we’ve been proud to work with and support over the years – follow along on Twitter @unlockcharity and make sure you join our mailing list for all the latest news from Unlock.

 

 

 

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