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Redeveloping the disclosure calculator

Digital and Communications Manager Ruth Davies explains what's changed and why

There are many problems with the criminal records system. But as our helpline team will tell you, there’s one issue that impacts pretty much everyone with a criminal record: the system is confusing and complicated, and it can be hard to know where you stand. The complex rules around spending, filtering and how multiple convictions and disposals can impact each other aren’t clearly explained to most people when they receive their conviction. That’s why back in 2011, we developed and launched our Disclosure Calculator.  

The original calculator was a game-changer; for the first time, people could find out quickly and easily when their conviction would be spent – giving them the confidence to apply for jobs and go forward with their lives. 

Why build a new calculator? 

Since we developed the calculator, hundreds of thousands of individuals with criminal records have used it, and we know that many organisations use it with their clients. Eventually the government decided to build their own calculator – something which we welcomed, and we provided feedback during the development process.  

However, we know that as an independent organisation, many people with criminal records trust us and still want to get their information directly from us. As well as telling you whether a conviction is spent, we can help you understand what it means, and what to do next. That’s why, after redeveloping our website, we decided to build a new version of our disclosure calculator. I’m delighted to say that the new version is now ready for you to try.  

What’s new? 

Times have moved on since we built the original calculator, and we knew the look and feel was no longer up to date. With the new version we’ve created a cleaner feel, with a simple step-by-step flow – we hope this feels less overwhelming to users. We’ve also made sure it meets the latest accessibility standards.  

We’ve rebuilt the calculator from the ground up, building the back end in a way that means none of your personal information will be stored – and we won’t ask for any information that could identify you.  

Crucially, the new calculator has the flexibility we need to make changes as we go; if we get feedback about the wording, we can change it. If users tell us some additional guidance would be helpful, we can add it. If the legislation around criminal records changes, we can update the calculator quickly.  

Higher level DBS checks 

The most ambitious part of this redevelopment is the addition of the ‘filtering’ rules (these determine what will show up on a standard or enhanced DBS check). This has been challenging for a number of reasons, highlighting yet again how complicated the rules are. The biggest challenge with incorporating filtering rules into the calculator is that there is a long list of offences which are excluded – i.e. will never be filtered. This list uses the name of the Act someone was convicted under – not the offence name – which can be really confusing. For example, someone with an offence of ‘robbery’ could have been convicted under ‘Larceny Act 1916, s23’.  

We’re confident that we’ve added filtering functionality the best way possible – there is no perfect solution to this problem, and the government calculator doesn’t include it. To check whether your conviction will show on a standard or enhanced DBS check, please read the instructions in the calculator carefully and enter the name of the Act, not the offence. You can find this out from your police records. 

Tell us what you think 

Although we’ve tested the calculator with users at every step of the process, we know that a digital product is never ‘finished’; there will always be room for improvement. If you spot something that doesn’t look right or could be improved, please drop me an email: 


Big thanks to Clear Honest Design, who have worked with us on this project, and to everyone who took part in user testing along the way. 

Written by:

Ruth is Digital and Communications Manager at Unlock


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

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