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Looking back at 2018 – A month-by-month review of our work and criminal record developments

With the Christmas break almost upon us and 2018 coming to an end, it’s a good time to reflect on the last 12 months and the developments relating to criminal records.

Once again it’s been an incredibly busy year for Unlock, with lots of positive news and progress to report in terms of the charity itself:

  1. We’ve continued to expand the information, advice and support we provide to help people overcome the stigma of their convictions.
  2. We have yet again seen large numbers of people accessing our helpline and websites. Building on last years’ unprecedented rise, our helpline will have dealt with around 8,000 enquiries this year. Our information site has yet again had over 1 million visitors and our disclosure calculator will have helped around 50,000 people work out when their convictions become spent.
  3. We’ve welcomed four new trustees and a full-time member of staff.
  4. We’ve started a whole new programme of work around access to higher education.

As you can see in the month-by-month highlights below, there’s been some significant positive policy changes; UCAS made changes to the university application process by dropping the question about criminal records, and the ‘disqualification by association’ requirements in primary schools were finally scrapped.

But it’s not all been positive. There continues to be new and extended policies and practices that treat people with convictions unfairly and punish people long after they’ve served their sentence. We’ve had to grapple with helping individuals and charities respond to changes to the rules that apply to charities which impact on the involvement of people with criminal records. Our research on employer practices published in October showed how the vast majority of national companies continue to ask about criminal records on job application forms.

A significant amount of effort went into the Supreme Court hearing in June, where we formally intervened for the first time in our 18-year history to help challenge the Government’s claim that the current criminal records disclosure regime is fair. We are incredibly grateful to all those who donated to help us cover our legal costs. We’re still awaiting a judgment and that should come in the first half of 2019.

This all means that, now more than ever, it’s vital that we continue to work hard to provide support and a voice for people with convictions, so we look forward to yet another strong year in 2019 and we are grateful to those of you that continue to support our vital work.

On a practical note, our helpline will be closed for the Christmas holidays from 4pm on Friday 21st December and will reopen at 10am on Wednesday 2nd January 2019. Our information site has details on what to do if you have questions over the festive period.

In the meantime, on behalf of all the staff and the board of trustees, I would like to wish the people we help, our volunteers, supporters and funders a very merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year.


Some highlights month-by-month

January – We published guidance and advice about the DBS’s newly introduced basic criminal record check.

February – Our blog about how enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks are not a panacea for safeguarding issues was published on the Huffington Post website.

March – Together with SCYJ, we wrote to the Justice Committee with concerns about how the Government had responded to their report on the disclosure of youth criminal records.

April – We launched a CrowdJustice appeal to help us cover the legal costs of intervening in the Supreme Court and raised over £17,000 (see June below).

May – We published A life sentence for young people – a report into the impact of criminal records acquired in childhood and early adulthood. And UCAS announced positive changes to the university application process that will benefit students with criminal records.

June – We were at the Supreme Court helping to challenge the Government’s claim that the current criminal records disclosure regime is fair.

July – After four years of campaigning, we were delighted that the government announced the scrapping of the disproportionate, unfair and ineffective “disqualification by association” rule for schools.

August – We published guidance and an online tool to help people affected by new legislation which automatically disqualifies some people from running a charity.

September – We published guidance for employers explaining that collecting information about criminal records at the initial application stage of recruitment is likely to be a breach of data protection law (GDPR).

October – We published A Question of Fairness – the results of our own research, showing that the vast majority of national companies continue to ask about criminal records on job application forms.

November – Our annual report for the financial year 2017-18 was published, providing full details of all our work, and spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Law in Action – “Should have a past block a child’s future?

December – We started a new phase of research with a call-out to people of BAME backgrounds for examples of where their background has compounded problems with their criminal record.



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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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