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Why and how we support practitioners

For those who help people with convictions

Unlock is an independent award-winning charity, providing trusted information, advice and advocacy  for people with criminal convictions. This is funded by charitable grants, trusts and donations, and include our Information Hub, Helpline, Advocacy, Disclosure Calculator and Online Forum.

We are not a government-contracted service-delivery organisation. We are an independent advocacy organisation. As a result, we don’t promote ‘referrals’ as we are limited in how many people we can help individually. Much of our work is about supporting people to help themselves. Another way is that we help front-line practitioners that provide support and advice to people with convictions.

This page explains why we provide this kind of support. For more information on the types of support we provide, click here.



As an independent advocacy organisation, we believe it is important that we are not a service-delivery organisation, nor do we seek to win contracts to deliver services. This puts us in a unique position of allowing us influence at both a practical and a policy level.

At a practical level, instead of delivering services directly, we support those that do. Ultimately, our aim is to make sure that people with convictions receive accurate and reliable advice relating to their convictions.


Why Unlock?

We are the leading charity in England & Wales on understanding criminal record checking processes and their impact on people with criminal convictions. We work closely with the Ministry of Justice, Home Office, Disclosure & Barring Service and Disclosure Scotland.

We are the go-to place for advice from charities, resettlement service providers, probation staff and others who are looking for advice on behalf of their clients.


What support can we provide?

We provide a range of support. This includes free access to our Information Hub, in-house training workshops and bookable training sessions, multiple-use of our disclosure calculator, and the option to sign up to receive email updates.

For more information on the types of support we provide, click here.


Aims of this work

Our aim is that practitioners have the latest skills, knowledge and expertise so that they can provide accurate, reliable and up to date advice and support to their clients who have criminal convictions, particularly on issues relating to criminal records, disclosure and access to employment, training and education.


Why is it important?

Our experience is that practitioners working with people who have convictions receive very little training on understanding and supporting people with the long-term effects of their convictions. We regularly receive contact from practitioners that don’t feel confident in giving advice to their clients.

Ultimately, mistakes can be costly. We have seen many examples where people have lost jobs and others opportunities as a result of being given inaccurate advice. Some have even gone on to get a further conviction!

We believe that it’s important for practitioners to properly understand the long-term effects that having a criminal record can have on their client. This will add value to whatever support is being provided – it is not just designed for practitioners who help to find people work!


Why is it needed?

Changes to the criminal records regime are constant and confusing and it can be hard for practitioners to wade through them, not fully understanding what (if any) impact they have on their clients. Poor knowledge results in ineffective and inaccurate advice and support being given, leading to frustration and poor outcomes.

For example, changes to the complex Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which came into force in March 2014, has significantly changed when an individual’s convictions can become spent. No training is being provided by Government. Our support can help practitioners to support individuals to work out when their convictions become spent under the new law. We can also provide access to our easy-to-use online tool which can work out if and when convictions become spent – essential information for your staff.

“I needed this training 5 years ago when I first started this job. I hate to think how much I have got this wrong in the past, and what impact that might have had on the people I’ve been trying to help”

Employment support worker

The Criminal Records Bureau recently merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority to become the Disclosure and Barring Service. The result of this has been a number of changes to their processes, including a new filtering process which removes old and minor convictions from standard and enhanced disclosures. Despite this being in force since May 2013, many practitioners remain unaware of it. The DBS has stopped providing direct training for practitioners.

“I genuinely thought that if somebody had a conviction, they’d have to disclose this forever when they’re applying for an enhanced checked job.”

Job Centre Advisor

Unlock’s core work is providing information and advice to people with convictions. By using our training and support, you can be confident that your staff that are providing information, advice or support to people with convictions will have a sound understanding of the issues, and will have access to use the best resources available. Our reputation depends on it.


Who is this aimed at?

People who are providing information, advice and support to people with convictions – prison resettlement teams, probation officers, CAB advisors and charities that provide support in the community

Services that are providing employment-focused support to people with convictions – careers advisors, JobCentre Plus workers, Work Programme providers and Probation-based employment projects

We provide specific support to employers and others (such as volunteer recruitment agencies, colleges, Universities and insurers) on handling criminal records in the course of their work.


For more information

Information about the types of support we provide is available here.

If you have any questions, please email or call 01622 230705.

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12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

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