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Tag: Inside Times

Moving on: Homelessness and leaving prison

This month we’ve written a further article for Inside Time ‘Through the Gate’ section which provides information on homelessness and leaving prison.

People leaving prison are often at high risk of homelessness. You may have been homeless before entering prison but you could find that your criminal record will be a further barrier to finding the right sort of accommodation upon release. If you don’t qualify for housing from a local authority then the delay in receiving the housing element of Universal Credit often means that you’ll be unable to secure accommodation with a private landlord.

However, statistics show that nearly 2 out of every 5 people will need help in finding a place to live when leaving prison, and 3 in 5 say that having somewhere to live is important in stopping them reoffending. With a national shortage of housing stock, most councils have very strict criteria on who is eligible for housing and far too often people leave prison without having a permanent home to go to. Government figures show fewer than half of prisoners released between October 2016 and January 2018 went out to settled accommodation; and there was a 20-fold increase in people sleeping rough.

The Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into force in October 2018, has put an obligation on prisons to have a system in place to identify anybody who will be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless well in advance of their release date and to then refer them to their local authority. Many prisons will use the service of outside agencies to do this for them.

Initially, the prison/agency will need to determine which local authority you’ll come under. They’ll do this by establishing where you have a local connection; this could be somewhere that you’ve lived or worked previously or where you have a family association. Being in prison won’t establish you as being resident within the area that the prison is situated.

Once a referral has been made to a local authority, an assessment will be carried out. It’s important to know that not everybody who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless will be entitled to accommodation. However, everybody is entitled to advice from a housing service.

The assessment will take into account details of:

  1. The circumstances that led to you being homeless or threatened with homelessness;
  2. Your housing needs – what accommodation would be suitable for you and anybody that you reside with; and
  3. What support would be necessary for you to be able to retain suitable accommodation.

At the end of the assessment, a housing plan will be put together which sets out any steps you’re required to take for the purposes of securing and retaining suitable accommodation. This might include things like agreeing to get debt advice if, for example, you have rent arrears. The plan will also include details of the things that the council have to do to help you.

If you’re homeless this could include:

  • Helping you get emergency housing such as a hostel;
  • Giving you details of landlords who are willing to accept anybody on benefits;
  • Checking whether you can get help with rental costs;
  • Helping you to find a private rented home – for example by helping you with a deposit or rent in advance.

The council will expect you to follow the steps set out to find accommodation for yourself. The assumption is that you’ll accept accommodation offered to you, unless you have extremely good grounds for refusing. If the council believe that you’ve ‘deliberately and unreasonably refused’ to cooperate with your plan then you’ll be given a ‘warning’ setting out the reasons for the ‘failure to cooperate’ and providing you with details of what will happen if you continue to refuse to follow the steps set out. This could be removing you from the council’s housing list.

The government has said that it is addressing the issue of people being released from prison without accommodation in its rough sleeping strategy, which aims to eliminate all rough sleeping by 2027. However, this is still a long way off and for now, we’d recommend that if you are likely to be homeless upon your release, you make this known to the relevant department in the prison – and to your OM – as soon as possible.

Moving on: Travelling abroad with a criminal record

This month, we’ve written a further article for InsideTime ‘Through the Gate’ Section which focuses on travelling abroad with a criminal record.

A copy of the article can be found below.

Whilst you’re in prison, you’ll probably have heard lots of conflicting information about travelling abroad with a criminal record. Unless you’re on licence, there’s rarely anything stopping you from travelling abroad and at the moment you can travel freely within the EU.

When and where you can travel to will depend on the country you wish to visit, the nature of your offence and sentence you received. Visiting countries like the USA or Australia will usually mean applying for a visa. However, don’t be put off by this. We know of many people with a criminal record who’ve successfully been granted visas.

Travelling abroad whilst on licence

It’s more than likely that you’ll face restrictions on travelling abroad all the time you’re on licence. A standard condition of any licence is ‘not to travel outside the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man without the prior permission of the responsible officer’.

Therefore if you’re considering travelling abroad, it might be an idea to approach your probation officer informally to start with. You’ll be able to get an idea of whether they’d give you permission prior to putting your request in writing. Each probation area will have their own approach to travelling abroad, so get a copy of your area’s policy to find out how closely you meet their criteria. If you’re refused you can go through the complaints system, details of which you should be able to get from your probation officer.

Moving abroad whilst on licence

Moving to another country can be extremely problematic all the time you’re on licence. Although you’re not in prison, the time you’re on licence is still classed as part of the sentence given to you by the court.

Usually, you’ll need to spend some time in the community in the UK on licence before you can be considered for resettlement overseas. This is to ensure that any risk you pose of re-offending can be assessed as well as evidencing that you’re able to conform to all your licence conditions.

In deciding whether to grant you permission to move abroad, your probation officer will consider whether you have any family ties or other connections (for example you lived overseas prior to going to prison) as well as reviewing whether your offence is related to the country you wish to travel to.

Travelling when you’re on the sex offenders register

If you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence, you may find that even when your licence ends, you will remain on the register. If this is the case, you’ll need to continue to notify the police if you intend leaving the country for 3 days or longer.

Once you’ve informed the police of your travel plans, your supervising police officer may decide to ‘flag’ your passport with an Interpol Green Notice. This notification on your passport will alert overseas immigration officers that an individual who is on the sex offenders register is visiting. Depending on the country you’re travelling to, you may be denied entry and sent back to the UK. Examples of people we’ve heard this happen to are those looking to visit places like Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

What information is held about you on your passport

The UK has been using ‘biometric’ passports since 2006. These passports contain a microchip which stores a digitalised image of your passport photograph as well as the biographical details printed on the passport. It does not contain any information which can’t be found on the physical version of the passport. It’s a myth that the chip holds details of your criminal record.

Travelling to Europe post-Brexit

As I’m sure you know, Brexit should be finalised by March 2019 and although the exact outcome is yet to be finalised, there is talk that the ease with which we currently travel to the EU may change.

The European Union has proposed a new visa scheme for all visitors to the EU, called a European Travel Information and Authorisation System. If approved, it will place some restrictions on who can and cannot travel. However, until the withdrawal date and during the transition, the current immigration arrangement for British nationals will continue as they are currently.

Moving on: Employment after release

This month, we’ve written a further article for InsideTime ‘Through the Gate’ Section which focuses on employment after release.

A copy of the article can be found below.

On release from prison, and possibly for some time after, your conviction will be technically ‘unspent’ – this means you’ll need to disclose it to an employer if you’re asked about it. Depending on the sector you want to work in, it may be more difficult to secure work with an unspent conviction. However, more and more employers are starting to recognise the value that people with convictions bring to the workplace.

Where can you find help to get into work?

As well as the jobcentre and work programme providers, there are recruitment agencies who specialise in finding work for people with convictions. These include Chance 2013, Working Chance (specifically for women with convictions) and Prosper4 (providing a digital job board).

To make sure you get the most benefit from these organisations, we’d always recommend that you tell them the details of your unspent conviction. By voluntarily disclosing your criminal record, you’re placing a lot of trust in your advisor. However, they’re all bound by confidentiality policies and the Data Protection Act and they will definitely appreciate your honesty.

Some employers have blanket bans on recruiting people with unspent convictions, so if your conviction is unspent, then applying for jobs with these employers would be a waste of both their time and yours. However, if you don’t disclose to your jobcentre advisor and they believe you have the necessary skills and experience to do the job, then you’ll usually be expected to apply. If you refuse, you may be sanctioned and lose your benefits for a while. If you disclose your unspent convictions to your advisor you can potentially avoid situations like this.

Friendly employers

Many employers consider individuals with convictions on merit and actively encourage applications from people with convictions. To try to ensure that people with a criminal record get the most positive start to their applications, a number of companies have signed up to the ‘Ban the Box’ campaign. This includes companies like Barclays Bank, Boots, Costain and the Civil Service. These companies have removed the tick box from application forms which ask about convictions – meaning that all applicants are treated the same and given the same opportunity at that stage in the recruitment process.

Several years ago, Unlock started to develop a list of those employers that are known to recruit people with convictions from the community and those that have established direct links with prisons. These include for example, Timpsons, Greggs, Cisco Systems and DHL. The list is available to download at or by contacting the Unlock helpline.

However, it’s important not to limit yourself to only applying to these companies. There are many employers that regularly recruit people with convictions but don’t necessarily publicise the fact.

Other issues with getting into work

Very few people are banned from working in certain jobs. Generally, the decision whether to employ you is left to the employer. However if, as a result of your conviction, you have been placed on the children’s or adult’s barred list then you’ll be breaking the law if you seek to work in ‘regulated’ activity with a group from which you are barred.

Also, if you’re on licence one of the standard licence conditions is “Not undertake work, or a particular type of work, unless it is approved by the supervising officer and notify the supervising officer in advance of any proposal to undertake work or a particular type of work”.

The majority of probation officers recognise the importance that work plays in helping to turn lives around and so will often be happy to approve employment unless there are very good reasons why they shouldn’t (for example if you’d be working for a company which could bring you into direct contact with your victim). However, calls to our helpline show that this isn’t always the case. If your probation officer refuses you permission to work for a certain employer or in a certain role, they should provide you with the reason for their decision. If you don’t believe the decision is justified then you may want to consider challenging it. However, before formally appealing ask your probation officer to put their reasons for refusal in writing; you’ll then be completely clear about what you’re appealing.

What does the future hold?

Getting a job with a criminal record is likely to be challenging but definitely not impossible. Many businesses are already raising concerns about the potential lack of workers when the UK leaves the EU in 2019, with many being actively encouraged to consider the talent that many people with convictions have to offer.

Moving on: The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the benefits of a spent conviction

This month, we’ve written another article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focuses on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

A copy of the article can be found below.

How do I know when my conviction will become spent and what will that mean for me?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) gives each sentence a ‘rehabilitation period’. This is essentially the time it takes to become spent, and during this period your conviction is considered ‘unspent’. Once it’s passed, and assuming you don’t receive any further convictions, then your conviction will become spent. Once spent, you no longer have to disclose it when applying for the majority of jobs or when purchasing insurance.

Unless you’ve received a prison sentence of more than 4 years, then you’ll benefit from the ROA at some point in the future (and we’re campaigning for it to cover sentences of over 4 years too).

So what are the benefits when a conviction becomes spent?

The main benefits relate to applying for work and getting insurance. Generally, once spent you don’t need to disclose it.

Applying for work or volunteering

Providing the role you’re applying for is not ‘exempt’ from the ROA then you won’t need to disclose your conviction to an employer once it’s spent, and it won’t appear on a basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Roles which are typically covered include:

  • Retail work;
  • Hospitality industry;
  • Construction industry;
  • Office work

Applying for insurance

Once your conviction is spent, the law gives you the right not to disclose it when applying for insurance, no matter what question an insurance company asks. Most insurers only ask you to disclose unspent convictions although some might ask for ‘any convictions in the last five years’. If your conviction is spent, you don’t need to disclose it under any circumstances.

Are there any areas where the ROA doesn’t apply?

Yes. These include:

  • Working and volunteering in roles ‘exempt’ from the ROA – If you’re looking to work with children or vulnerable adults then different rules apply;
  • Working or volunteering outside England and Wales – Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own version of the ROA but they differ in a number of ways. It could be that your conviction would be spent in England but remain unspent in Scotland;
  • Travelling abroad – Each country will have their own entry requirements regarding people with convictions. It’s always best to check before you book any holiday;
  • Coming to, or applying to stay in, the UK (for example applying for citizenship).

How do I work out when my conviction becomes spent?

If you only have one conviction it should be relatively straightforward to work out by using the table included in this article.

If you have several convictions you may find it easier to use Unlock’s online calculator which can be found at – someone with internet access can use this for you and then print the results.

Can I get a formal record of my unspent convictions?

Yes, you can get a print-out of your unspent convictions by applying for a basic DBS certificate from the Disclosure and Barring Service. The cost is currently £25. When you start applying for jobs you’ll find that many employers carry out basic DBS checks as part of their recruiting process.

Is there anything else I should know?

You can legally ‘lie’

Although most employers and insurers are clear about when you only have to disclose unspent convictions, some ask misleading questions like …”Have you ever …”. So long as the ROA applies, you can legally ‘lie’ about your past convictions by answering ‘no’ to the question.

It’s the sentence you received, not time served

The time it takes to become spent is based on the sentence imposed by the court, not the time you serve in prison. For example, if you received an 8-month sentence but were released after 4 months, your rehabilitation period will be based on the 8-month sentence.

Court orders

If you’ve received an ‘ancillary’ or ‘relevant’ order in addition to your prison sentence; for example a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) or Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) then your conviction will not become spent until the end of the order. If the order is indefinite, this essentially means that your conviction will not be spent until you apply to have it amended or discharged.

Myth busters

There’s a lot of hearsay and misleading information relating to spent convictions, some of the most common being:

  • Myth: “Once a conviction’s spent it’s wiped off the Police National Computer”

Although you won’t need to disclose it and it won’t appear on a basic DBS certificate, it will remain on the PNC until you’re 100 years of age.

  • Myth: “If you’ve received a conviction for a sexual or violent offence it will never be spent”

Providing you didn’t receive a prison sentence of over 4 years (or a sentence like an IPP sentence), your conviction will become spent at some point, irrespective of the nature of the offence.

  • Myth: “Your conviction won’t be spent until you’ve come off the Sex Offenders Register”

The notification requirement is not regarded as a disqualification or court order and is separate to how long it takes for a conviction to become spent. It’s quite common for a conviction to become spent but for an individual to still be subject to the notification requirements.

Moving on: Applying to university

This month, we’ve written another article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focuses on applying to university.

A copy of the article can be found below.

I’m thinking of applying to university when I leave prison. Will my criminal record cause me a problem?

For many people, prison can be an ideal opportunity to improve their education, be it their numeracy or literacy skills or by undertaking distance learning courses, often funded by the Prisoners Education Trust. Your prison education department should be able to provide you with further information and may be able to assist you in completing application forms. But, what if you’re planning to apply to university once you’ve left prison?

Although universities are generally considered quite welcoming towards people with convictions who are interested in learning, they do still ask about criminal convictions. However, for many courses you will usually only be expected to disclose unspent convictions and then, only if your offence is deemed to be a ‘relevant’ conviction.

What is a ‘relevant’ conviction?

UCAS (the organisation responsible for dealing with the majority of applications for full-time study at university) have defined what they mean by a ‘relevant’ conviction. It covers quite a lot of ‘categories’ of offence, including those involving:

  • Any kind of violence;
  • Offences listed in the Sexual Offences Act 2003;
  • The unlawful supply of controlled drugs;
  • Offences involving firearms;
  • Offences involving arson;
  • Offences listed in the Terrorism Act 2003.

So, if your conviction(s) doesn’t involve one of the above, then you won’t need to disclose it on the UCAS application form.

What if I’m applying for a course where I’ll be working with children?

If you’re considering a course which would involve things like placements with children or vulnerable adults then the university will usually do an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)  check. In this case you will need to disclose all your convictions to the university (both spent and unspent).

Will the university accept me if I disclose my convictions?

If you disclose your convictions, you shouldn’t automatically be refused a place. There are good practice guidelines that universities should be working to that set out how they should handle your application. However, if you choose not to disclose and the university find out then they will probably see this as a breach of trust and won’t progress your application.

Once you’ve disclosed, the university will normally contact you, asking you to provide additional information about your conviction to help them carry out an assessment. They might set up a ‘panel’ to consider your case. Although this might sound daunting, make the most of this opportunity as it will give you the chance to provide evidence that you’ve taken responsibility for your actions and sought to address your offending behaviour. You should also describe what you’ve done since you received your conviction – for example any courses that you’ve taken and try to reassure the university that you don’t pose any risk to students, staff, visitors etc. The university should then consider any risks that they think are present, as well as whether you are able to meet any particular professional or statutory requirements that may exist for the course that you’re applying for.

What can I do if the university refuse my application?

We know lots of people that have been to prison that have gone on to successfully study at university. But sometimes people do get refused. If that happens to you, the university will often provide you with details of how you can appeal their decision.

It is always worth lodging an appeal if you’re given the opportunity to do so – you’ve got nothing to lose. You should make sure you set out your case clearly and concisely and avoid being too hostile or over emotional. We have spoken to and helped many people to successfully appeal a university’s decision.

What is Unlock doing?

We believe that people with convictions applying to university should be considered first and foremost on their skills and abilities rather than by the fact that they have a criminal record.

We are encouraging the government, UCAS and universities to remove questions about criminal records from the initial application stage and separating academic merit decisions with judgements around a past criminal record, which should come later in the process. In the meantime, we are working with UCAS to amend their application process and improve the guidance around disclosure on their application forms.


Moving on: What can I do about information that’s reported about my offence online?

This month, we’ve written another article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focuses on dealing with information that’s available about you online.

A copy of the article can be found below.

As you prepare to leave prison and start considering applying for jobs or housing, you might also have to think about the risk of an internet search revealing the details of your criminal record.

Although official criminal records are not available online, if there was any media interest in your case then it’s likely that information about you can be found from newspaper articles. We regularly hear from individuals whose employers have carried out ‘Google’ searches as a way of informally checking their criminal records. Even work colleagues and new partners will be able to find out about your past online and let’s be clear – not much printed about you in the media is going to make good reading!

What can you do about the so-called ‘Google-effect’?

In May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that individuals should be able to request the deletion or removal of personal data published online where there was no compelling reason for it to remain. This is often referred to as ‘the right to be forgotten’. Following the ruling, Google (and other search engines) launched a system whereby individuals could request that information about them is removed from search results.

The evidence so far has shown that they will normally refuse your application all the time your conviction is unspent (under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974). That means you’ll have to wait at least a couple of years after release – for example, a 12 month prison sentence given to an adult becomes spent 4 years after the end of the full sentence.

Once spent, we would certainly recommend that you make an application to have the links removed. Even at this point, you’ll still need to outline why you believe the information about you is:

  • Irrelevant – You might want to highlight how it’s no longer necessary for you to disclose your conviction for the types of job you’re applying for; how you’re not a high profile figure and how you’re not a danger to the public. If you can, include evidence of how you’ve changed since your offence.
  • Inappropriate – This might include setting out the length of time since you were convicted; the effect it’s having on you and your family; how it affects your future job prospects and how it is generally having a disproportionate affect on your life.
  • Outdated or not in the public interest.

Other way’s of dealing with the problem

Regardless of the new system, many people with convictions continue to experience difficulties because of their convictions being printed online. This is especially so if you’ve just left prison.

One option you might want to consider is changing your name. Although this won’t get you away from your criminal record (for example, if an employer did a criminal record check then it would still appear if it’s unspent), it does prevent people from getting access to information that they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to.

Another option to think about is trying to flood the internet with alternative, positive stories about yourself to ‘force down’ the reports that relate to your conviction. This could be something as simple as posting comments about articles you’ve read on different websites or being a bit more ambitious and starting a ‘blog on a topic that you’ve got an interest in.

What is Unlock doing to help?

Even once it’s spent, success in removing links to the information isn’t guaranteed. We’ve seen many cases refused. So we’ve been working with a law-firm specialising in this field to advise people with spent convictions on a ‘no win no fee’ basis. We’re taking a small number of claims forward, and the aim is to get a presumption that once it’s spent, it should be removed.

In the meantime, we’re working with employers to make sure that they don’t rely on information that can be found online, and instead encouraging them to have recruitment practices which give applicants the opportunity to explain their past in their own words.


Moving on: Opening a bank account whilst your’re in prison

This month, we’ve written another article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focuses on opening a bank account whilst your’re in prison.

A copy of the article can be found below.

I’m currently in prison and want to open a bank account ready for when I’m released. Can I do it while still in prison?

Many people in prison don’t have a bank account. It’s a fundamental necessity of modern life and therefore resettlement; whether you’ll be going into a paid job on release or claiming JSA, you’ll need a bank account for any money to be paid into.

That’s why it’s a good idea to try and open an account before you’re released. When you open an account, bear in mind that generally:

  • You’ll need to give the prison as your address;
  • Authorised staff from the prison can inspect financial records that come into the prison;
  • You won’t be allowed to open an account which offers credit facilities;
  • You won’t be allowed to have in your possession any cheque book or debit card that is associated with the account.

With the above in mind, you should look to open a basic bank account. A basic account will allow you to have wages and benefits paid into it, will give you a debit card and will enable you to set up direct debits to pay bills. It won’t provide you with an overdraft facility.

Does your prison have a banking arrangement in place?

Back in 2005, Unlock identified that many people coming out of prison didn’t have access to a bank account and often missed out on securing employment as a result of this. Over the next 9 years, we worked with various banks and prisons to set up specific arrangements in 74 prisons to make the process of getting an account much simpler. In 2014, there were 114 prisons with links to a high street bank, and we handed over the day-to-day responsibility to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to sustain this work.

Speak to your personal officer or the resettlement department to find out whether there is a banking arrangement in place and whether you would be eligible to open an account. Some prisons prioritise those that are nearing the end of their sentence. If you are eligible, you should be provided with details of how you make an application.

What can you do if your prison doesn’t have an arrangement in place?

If your prison doesn’t have a specific arrangement in place, there is nothing stopping you from applying to other banks, but it can be a lot more difficult. It might help if you apply to a bank close to the prison – you can always change branch at a later date if you wish to. Ask your personal officer or resettlement department for a list of local banks.

It should be stressed that the attitude of staff can vary between banks and also branches and therefore, if you’re refused by one, don’t give up – try somewhere else.

Proving your identity whilst in prison

For many people in prison and on release, the biggest problem they face when applying to open a bank account is providing identification. Even if the bank is happy to open an account for you, you will still need to meet the individual bank’s ID requirements. Most will ask you to prove your name with another piece of ID to prove your address. This can often be expensive.

As part of our banking project, we helped to overcome the problem that people with no ID face. We created an ID form which can be signed by the Governor, which will prove who you are. Further details about the form and how it is used by the prison can be found in PSI 44/2011.

Feedback on individual prisons

When we handed the banking project back to NOMS in 2014, 114 prisons had links with a high street bank and 5936 basic bank accounts had been opened for people in prison in 2013-14 alone. What began as a small charitably funded project, ultimately ended up as a national campaign which attracted significant political and media interest.

If you believe that the prison you are in does have a banking arrangement, but it’s either not being delivered or you’re not able to access it, then we’d like to hear from you as this will help us in our work to make sure people are able to open a basic bank account before release from prison.


Moving on: Disclosing criminal convictions to prospective employers – when and how?

This month, we’ve written another article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focuses on disclosing criminal convictions to prospective employers if you’re about to leave prison.

A copy of the article can be found below.

I’m just about to leave prison and I’m worried about disclosing my conviction to potential employers; are there any tips you can give me?

Irrespective of the skills and experience you might have, the addition of a criminal record can make job hunting a lot more difficult. There are many employers that are friendlier than others towards people with criminal records, but whatever type of employer you’re applying to, the key to success will be how well you disclose your criminal record.

Preparing to disclose

Before you start thinking about what, when and how to disclose, make sure you’re fully prepared.

  • Understand your criminal record – Even though your conviction will stay on the Police National Computer (PNC) until you’re 100 years old, you might not need to disclose it forever. You can find out what’s on your record, and how it might appear on any criminal record checks, by applying for a copy of your police record (it costs £10 and is known as a Subject Access Request).
  • Work out if or when your record becomes ‘spent’ – Providing your prison sentence wasn’t over 4 years then your conviction will become spent at some point under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA). For most jobs, you won’t need to disclose your conviction once it’s spent.
  • If an employer asks, know if you need to tell them – You only have to disclose your record if an employer asks; many will at some point in the recruitment process. If your conviction is unspent, then legally you’ll need to disclose it. If you don’t disclose when asked, an employer could revoke the job offer, you could be dismissed and you might receive a further conviction.

When should I disclose?

Every employer will have a slightly different recruitment process, and the point you get asked about your criminal record may be different for every job you apply for. You may be asked on an application form, at interview or after you’ve received a conditional offer. Try to find out what the employers process is and think about what you’d feel most comfortable with. We’re part of the ‘ban the box’ campaign and many national companies have signed up to this by removing the question about criminal records from their application form, instead asking later in the recruitment process.

How should I disclose?

You’ll need to be ready to tell an employer about the offence, when it happened, what was happening in your life at the time and what’s been happening since. Think about the concerns an employer might have about your conviction and decide how to tell your story to address these concerns. Practice your disclosure so that you’re ready when asked.

Some application forms will merely have a ‘tick-box’ whilst others will have space to explain your conviction. Generally, we wouldn’t advise that you disclose any specific details on the form. We’d suggest you tick the “Yes” box and then add a sentence such as “Happy to discuss if selected for interview”.

If you’re asked to provide details at application stage, you might choose to send a self-disclosure statement alongside your application. We wouldn’t normally advise this unless it’s specifically requested. If you disclose in this way, make sure that you send your letter to the correct person (if necessary, contact the company and find out who this is) and put it in a sealed envelope marked ‘confidential’. Keep a copy as evidence of what you’ve disclosed.

If you’re invited to attend an interview, you’ll need to be prepared to talk about your criminal record in case they ask you at this stage. Employers often ask questions to get a better understanding of what you might have previously disclosed. Try to give as much information as you can to allow the employer to make a properly informed decision.

Unlock’s top tips for disclosing

  • Whenever possible, try to disclose your record face-to-face; this tends to be the most effective way.
  • Know your criminal record well so that you can talk confidently about it. Any signs of hesitation or vagueness may make you look dishonest. If it helps, take a self-disclosure statement with you to the interview, which you can refer to if you need to.
  • Think in advance about the questions an employer might ask you. Prepare your answers so that you can talk about your criminal record in a positive way.
  • Answer the employer’s questions directly and honestly giving the right level of detail. Explain any mitigating circumstances which led to your offending but avoid ‘making excuses’. Talk about what you’ve learnt and how you’ve become a better person.
  • Your best chance of getting a job is to always be honest, upfront and positive. You may have a criminal record but if you can convince an employer that it’s not related to the job and that it won’t stop you from being a great employee then you’re in with a shot.



Moving on: Getting insurance if you’ve been to prison

In November 2016, we wrote an article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focused on the problems of getting insurance if you’ve got a criminal record.

It was written as a series of questions and answers and a copy of the article can be found below.

I’m just about to leave prison and have been told that it might be difficult to get insurance for my new flat and business. Is that right?

It’s true that most mainstream insurers discriminate against people with unspent convictions and you are probably going to struggle to get house or commercial insurance with them. Every mainstream insurer (except some car insurers) have blanket bans on people with unspent convictions and will usually refuse to even provide you with a quote.

So, isn’t it better just to not disclose?

No. It’s unlikely that an insurer will find out about your conviction when you take out your policy unless they are alerted to it. The problem will come if you need to make a claim as this is when an insurer would normally take more interest in your criminal record. The insurer will want to check with you the details they have and, if you tell them something different to what you told them when you took out the policy, they may want to investigate further. If the claim you’re making is quite big, they may do an internet search against your name to see if anything flags up. They may even ask you to agree to have a basic criminal record check.

If your unspent conviction comes to light, your insurer could then refuse or reduce your claim or, in a worst case scenario, the police could prosecute you for lying when you took out the policy. So, not disclosing if you’re asked is a huge risk to take.

Will anybody insure me?

Yes! Since 1999, we’ve been working with a range of brokers to develop cover for people with unspent convictions and we publish a list of those who specialise in providing insurance for people with unspent convictions. Some of them will be familiar to Inside Times readers as they advertise in this paper. We’ve also put together a list of mainstream motor insurers who only take motoring convictions into account.

Our list of brokers and motor insurers is available to download from our website or by writing to our office address. One of the most important pieces of advice is to shop around and not simply take the first quote you’re offered.

Do things get any better when my conviction is spent?

Yes. Once your conviction becomes spent the picture is much rosier. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (as amended in 2014), if you received a prison sentence of four years or less, your conviction will become spent at some time in the future. For example, a 2 year sentence as an adult becomes spent four years after the end of the full sentence. We’ll look at how this legislation works in more detail in a future article.

Once spent, you won’t need to disclose your conviction to insurers and they’re not legally allowed to consider your convictions. However, insurers don’t always make it clear that people don’t need to disclose their spent convictions and we’ve seen insurers ask questions such as:

Have you or anyone who normally lives with you ever been convicted of, or charged with any offence (other than a driving offence)?

If you see a question like this, you should interpret it as only relating to unspent convictions. If the convictions are spent, you can say no.

What else should I know?

If an insurer doesn’t ask about convictions, check any documentation that you receive to make sure that the information they have about you is correct. We’ve seen examples where individuals were not asked about convictions, but when they were sent the paperwork to sign, the section about convictions had been marked with ‘No’.

If an insurer does ask about convictions, make sure you get some form of written confirmation of the information that you’ve disclosed. This will be helpful in the event of any disputes about what you’ve disclosed.

Don’t rely on a telephone call being recorded – get proof in writing.

If your conviction will become spent in the future, find out when this is so that you don’t disclose it for longer than you have to.



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