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Tag: transformingrehabilitation

We give evidence to Parliament Committee on support for ex-offenders

Today Unlock, alongside Working Chance, Clinks and Revolving Doors Agency, gave oral evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into the support for ex-offenders. We were invited to give evidence following our written response to the inquiry.

At the session, Christopher Stacey, Unlock’s co-director, responded to questions focused on employment support, job centre staff and the approach of employers towards people with criminal records.

Watch the evidence session on Parliament TV.

We also supported the Committee by producing and circulating a survey amongst people with convictions. This received 82 responses, all of which were shared with the Committee.

We carried out an analysis of the survey results and submitted it to the Committee.

Download: Results and analysis of our survey

Our approach to working with other organisations

Working with other organisations is important to us. It often means we can achieve more than by working alone or we can help other organisations to achieve more themselves. For example, we:

We also provide open-access to a vast amount of information and resources through our websites. These websites are set up primarily to support people with convictions as part of the range of support we provide directly to individuals. However, we want as many people to benefit from our resources and we encourage organisations to use them as part of the delivery of their own work.

We are, however, seeing a rise in the number of enquiries from service-providers received by our helpline, which is set up and funded to provide support for individuals themselves.

That’s why we’ve published a document which explains our approach to working with other organisations. The aim is to clarify what support we can offer other organisations and how it can be accessed.

You can download our approach here.

Criminal record disclosure training endorsed by the Probation Institute

We’re delighted to announce that Unlock’s criminal record disclosure training has been endorsed by the Probation Institute. It also means that we’re now a Probation Institute Endorsed Learning Provider.

Commenting on the news, Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock, said:

“Those working in the probation sector are one of the key audiences for our criminal record disclosure training. We know that, historically, probation officers have had very little training on supporting their clients with the complex laws around criminal records and how to practically deal with disclosing their criminal record to employers and others.”


“The main reason we deliver training to probation providers and other organisations that deliver front-line services is so that we improve the quality of the support provided to people with convictions. We know from the feedback that we get that the training is high-quality and relevant to probation providers. We hope that this endorsement process will enable us to work with more probation services to help them to more effectively support their clients with the disclosure of their criminal records.”


Savas Hadjipavlou, Chief Executive of the Probation Institute, said:

“We are very pleased that the partnership between Unlock and the Probation Institute announced last October is producing results and particularly delighted that Unlock has become a Probation Institute Endorsed Learning Provider. Our endorsement arrangements support those working in probation enabling access to relevant and high quality training that can contribute to their continuing professional development”


More information

  1. You can find out more about our criminal record disclosure training
  2. This news has also been posted on the Probation Institute’s website
  3. You can find out more about the Probation Institute Learning Provider Endorsement Scheme
  4. Press/media enquiries

The ‘non-contracted’ voluntary sector and probation services (Part 2)

Following up on my previous article, here is the second part of my blog originally published as a Clinks Guest Blog, in which I look at the changing relationship between the voluntary sector and probation service provision, and how Unlock is responding. 






There’s one common factor amongst everyone who works with people on probation – their clients have a criminal record.

At Unlock, a key focus is the importance of people with convictions receiving accurate, reliable advice on understanding and dealing with the effects of their criminal record. That means that we provide information, advice and support directly, through things like our self-help information site and our peer-run helpline. However, these are charitably-funded forms of support, for the benefit of individuals directly.

A possible unfortunate consequence of the recent reforms is that voluntary sector organisations have to compete against one another. Some may say this is a good thing – personally, I struggle to match ‘competition’ with the traditional concept of ‘charity’. That’s why we’re taking a different approach.

I recognise that Unlock cannot do everything. Instead, we listen, we respond to gaps, and we develop alternatives. With the changing probation landscape, that has given us a real opportunity to achieve our aim – that people with convictions receive accurate, reliable advice on understanding and dealing with the effects of their criminal record. Of course, many people are no longer on probation, but for those that are, the need is arguably even greater.

So what have we done? Instead of seeking to be commissioned by NOMS or sub-contracted by ‘prime providers’, our role in this context is one of ‘supporting others’.

That’s why, in the last 18 months alone, we’ve provided more of our one-day criminal record disclosure training course, ‘Advising with Conviction’, than ever before. We’ve trained over 400 practitioners, with over 40% being probation-related staff. Some of these have been core ‘ETE’ probation officers – others have been staff of voluntary sector agencies working with probation, such as Michael.

And the feedback has been tremendous. For example, one attendee wrote afterwards that the course was “one of the most useful I’ve done in my 25 year career. Everyone who helps and gives advice to people with criminal records should do this – it should be mandatory”.

But the feedback we’ve had has also made us think. Often, we’re told that this is a very complex subject, and that a day simply isn’t long enough. That’s why we’ve recently responded by developing and announcing dates for a new 2-day course. This has been designed specifically for probation providers, staff in CRC’s, and specialists helping people with convictions to get into employment.

The conversations we’ve had with probation service providers are promising. But it’s clear that it’s taking time for the new providers to get their operating practices in place.

Ultimately, it’s important for me that Unlock remains true to its vision. That means that, in this context, making sure that people with convictions receive accurate, reliable advice on understanding and dealing with the effects of their criminal record.  That’s why we will always try to provide free information and advice to people with convictions.

However, how that works with ‘providers of services’ funded by Government (whether that is probation providers, work programme providers, careers advisors or others) will vary. Our focus isn’t to “sell training” (we don’t profit out of it, as any income simply supports our charitable work) and it’s important to me that Unlock’s work isn’t seen as operating in any kind of ‘competitive’ environment.

Nonetheless, it’s important that probation providers recognise their role in this. As I mentioned in my first blog, we’ve seen an increasing reliance by ‘practitioners’ on our ‘client-facing’ services – and that’s not sustainable for a small, independent charity like Unlock.

It’s right that providers and commissioners properly resource their work, and if they need help to do it, they need to respond accordingly. That’s where there’s a change in the nature of the relationship. For Unlock, it’s an important relationship for us to maintain, as we know that people with convictions often fall down because of the poor advice they’ve received at an earlier stage. We look forward to working with those providers who understand and respect our role, in the same way that we do theirs.



The ‘non-contracted’ voluntary sector and probation services (Part 1)

In this article, originally published as a Clinks Guest Blog, I share my thoughts on the challenges that are emerging from the changing relationship between the voluntary sector and probation service provision. This is the first of two blogs – the second will look at how I see the voluntary sector responding.




What’s the role of charities and voluntary agencies in delivering ‘rehabilitation’ or probation services? That’s not an easy question to answer nowadays, particularly after all of the changes that have come about through Transforming Rehabilitation.

The short answer depends, to some extent, on what type of charity you’re thinking of. Clearly, the bigger service-orientated charities, such as St Giles Trust, Nacro and Catch 22, are playing a big role in contracting and partnering on a regional level to deliver probation and rehabilitation services. Yet what about the medium-sized and smaller charities – what role do they have? Many do fantastic work, on a local/regional level. Yet, in the public announcements about ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ providers, it was really just the bigger charities that featured. I get the sense that the smaller ones are gradually being included in sub-contracts, but it remains to be seen how much of a role they play. To varying degrees, I’d categorise this group as the ‘contracted’ voluntary sector.

But what about those charities that don’t compete to deliver government-funded services? Or, to put it another way, the ‘non-contracted’ voluntary sector. It doesn’t feel like there are too many around nowadays – there tends to be less focus from government, as they’re not delivering the states responsibilities for them, but there are more than most people would think, and that’s the category that Unlock is in. For us, we’re always trying to get the balance right between providing practical charitably-funded support to people with convictions, while also identifying issues and working at a policy level to try and resolve the problems people face due to their criminal record. We believe that this ‘twin-track’ approach, which has our ‘independent’ status at its heart, is critical in making sure we stay true to the issues that people with criminal records face.

So what does that mean for smaller charities that are not in contractual arrangements with probation providers?

I can only really relate to my experience at Unlock. Firstly, it’s worth bearing in mind that the majority of people we help are no longer in prison or on probation – they’re simply living their life, and have a criminal record. This makes sense when you consider there’s over 10 million people in the UK with a criminal record, and only around 250,000 people on probation.

Yet over recent years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of ‘referrals’ we receive from probation agencies in particular. I say ‘referrals’ as we’ve never actually promoted or agreed to take ‘formal referrals’ as might happen with other organisations – it’s not in the nature of our work. We’ve also seen huge increases in direct contact from probation agencies and employment advisors.

At Unlock, we’re principally funded by charitable trusts, foundations and donations. That makes our mandate fairly clear, as we’ve usually set out the work we want to do – either working at a practical level providing support, or working at a policy level to secure long-term changes – and then worked hard to secure the funding to do it.

So how does that work interact or overlap with probation service providers? I think that’s where the nature of the relationship has changed. Rather than recognising the ‘added-value’ that charities can provide, the embedding of charities as ‘core’ providers of services is having a knock-on effect for those that aren’t ‘providers’ in the same way. In other words, there’s an increasing expectation that charities “are funded to do this”, when they might not be. Certainly, the idea of probation services ‘referring’ clients to voluntary sector agencies, when there’s no formal arrangement in place, raises a number of questions. How can charities like Unlock work with probation providers given the current direction of travel? How can probation providers work with charities like Unlock?

I start from a position, organisationally, of mutual respect. It’s important to understand the role of probation services, and understand what is expected of them. Likewise, it’s important to understand the work of the voluntary sector, to be clear about what they’re able to offer, and to whom.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss how we’re trying to overcome some of these questions, so that as an organisation we can remain true to our values and principles, but that we’re able to work in a way which enables us to support providers of probation services, so that ultimately, people with convictions benefit.


Are you a providing probation services? New 2-day criminal record disclosure training course


We’re excited to announce the details of a new a two-day training course, ‘Supporting with Conviction’, designed specifically for probation providers, staff in Community Rehabilitation Companies, and specialists helping people with convictions to get into employment.

At a time when probation provision is going through significant change, both in terms of structure and people, it’s critically important that those responsible for supporting people with convictions have the confidence, knowledge and skills to advise and support their clients on the dealing with the impact of their criminal record.

This ‘Supporting with Conviction’ course builds on the success of Unlock’s one-day training, which we’ve delivered to over 400 practitioners in the last 18 months. Our new two-day course has been specifically designed to meet the needs of probation providers, CRC’s, and other specialist practitioners such as Work Programme advisors.

Christopher Stacey, Co-Director at Unlock said “The recent changes to probation provision present a unique opportunity to ensure that the advice and support provided to people with convictions, both before release from prison and in the community, is of a genuinely high standard.”

“I know from the training courses that we run that there is a huge gap in the knowledge, awareness and understanding amongst those very people who are the primary source of support for people with convictions shortly after their conviction. That’s why we believe this type of training is so important.

“We are particularly keen to work with probation providers to ensure that their staff and practitioners working in a client-facing role have high-quality training on advising and supporting their clients on criminal records, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, disclosing to employers and criminal record checks.”

“It’s clear from the feedback that we get that there’s a demand for more time and detail than what we offer in our one-day course, so this is our response. The two-day course is designed as a comprehensive training package covering all important areas of criminal record disclosure as it relates to people with a criminal record. Split over two days, the course allows plenty of time for discussion and practical exercises. It also allows for attendees to reflect on the complexities of the law around disclosure, which are covered in the first day.”

“We’re looking forward to working with a range of organisations to genuinely improve the advice and support that people with convictions receive.”

To find out more about this training:


  • Unlock is an independent advocacy charity for people with convictions. As an organisation that doesn’t take government funding to deliver services, it was clear to us that our role in probation services would be one that supports those organisations that deliver services on the ground. This builds on our track record of providing accurate and reliable advice and support to people with convictions, while working at a policy level to push for a fairer and more inclusive society.
  • There’s more information about our training on our website
  • You can find out more general information about our support for providers of probation at
  • Alongside this exciting development, we continue to run our ever-popular one-day ‘Advising with Conviction’ training – dates for 2016 will be announced in the coming months.


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