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New guidance and tools published to help charities and individuals deal with changes to charity rules and criminal records

Update – 1st August 2018 – Changes to the rule come into force and we publish updates to the guidance mentioned below

Unlock, a leading independent charity for people with convictions, has today published guidance to help charities, as well as those involved in them, understand and prepare for changes to charity rules and its impact on people with criminal records.

From 1st August 2018, changes to the ‘automatic disqualification’ rules mean that there will be more restrictions on those who may run a charity.

Today’s guidance, Leading charities with conviction, coincides with the opening of the Charity Commission’s new ‘waiver’ system. From 1st February 2018, people affected by these changes may use the system to apply for advance clearance.

Commenting on today’s guidance, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock and author of the guidance for charities, said:

“There are over 11 million people in this country with a criminal record, and they play a vital role in contributing to charities.


“We would rather not have had to write this guidance. We believe the changes to the rules are unnecessary and ineffective. But as they are coming in, people need to act now. It’s important that neither individuals nor charities think that these changes mean people with criminal records can’t be involved in charities – they can and they should.


“Unlock’s message is this: don’t wait until August. If you’re involved in a charity and find that, from reading our guidance you’ll be disqualified from August 2018 because of your specific criminal record, today is the first day from which you may apply for a waiver. If you’re granted a waiver, it means you’re no longer disqualified.


“It’s also important that charities get to grips with these changes too. Understanding of the current rules is low, so it won’t be surprising if these changes are met with confusion and uncertainty by charities. Charities will need to update their recruitment processes to reflect the changes to the rules. That’s why we’ve worked with Clinks, the national infrastructure charity that supports the voluntary sector working in criminal justice in England and Wales, to produce simple, easy to use guidance and tools that will help boards of trustees, senior staff and HR managers understand what they need to do to prepare.”

Anne Fox, Chief Executive Officer of Clinks, the national infrastructure charity that supports the voluntary sector working in criminal justice in England and Wales, said:

“At Clinks we know that people with convictions have as much to offer civil society and the voluntary sector as anyone else. We believe that with the right support every individual can transform their lives.


“For charities working in criminal justice people with lived experience of the system are key to the difference we can make in the lives of people with convictions and their families – improving the quality and impact of the services on offer, and enabling services users to build a new identity which supports their journey to desistance from crime. For the wider voluntary sector a diverse range of trustees and staff is vital to ensure a broad range of perspectives, skills and knowledge.


“It is vital that organisations understand and prepare for these changes and how they might affect their trustees and senior staff. We are delighted to be working with Unlock to support the sector to do this”.


For more information

  1. Unlock is an independent, award-winning national charity that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence.
  2. There are over 11 million people in the UK that have a criminal record.
  3. Unlock’s website is
  4. High-resolution images for media use are available from Unlock’s Flickr account.
  5. Our guidance for charities is available to download from
  6. Our guidance for individuals is available from
  7. An online tool to help individuals work out if they’re affected is available at
  8. Landing page on our website – Changes to charity rules
  9. Details of the policy work we’ve been doing on the changes to the rules



The current rules only apply to trustees. People with unspent convictions for certain offences, including dishonesty and deception offences, are prevented from being a trustee until they apply for, and are granted, clearance from the Charity Commission.

There are two main changes happening in August 2018:

  1. There are more offences covered – including people on the sex offenders register
  2. There are more roles covered – the rules will apply to senior manager positions such as chief executives and chief finance officers

Today we’ve published two pieces of guidance – one for charities and one for individuals – as well as a simple online tool that helps people work out if the changes affect them.


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Debbie Sadler
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