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Unlock briefing: problems accessing insurance with a criminal record

Data from our helpline shows the barriers people face

At Unlock we hear every day from people with criminal records, who contact our helpline for advice and support about the barriers they are facing. As well as providing support to those individuals, we use what we hear on our helpline to drive forward our work to change the system.

Today we’re publishing a briefing which explores what our helpline data tells us about accessing insurance with a criminal record. To produce it, we’ve analysed all enquiries to our helpline that were identified as being about insurance from 1 September 2022 – 8 March 2023.

Key findings

The impact of unspent convictions

People commonly find a criminal record is treated like a tick box exercise – so anyone who discloses an unspent conviction is subject to automatic rejection or increased premiums, without the specific circumstances or relevance of any offence being taken into account.

Unclear or confusing questions

We found many examples of insurance companies asking questions that made it unclear what people should disclose – and in some cases led to people disclosing spent convictions that they did not legally need to disclose. Of the queries we received about insurance, 42% were enquiries about how to disclose and 11% asked about confusing questions asked by insurance companies.

The impact on family members

We  heard from people who did not have a criminal record themselves, but had been rejected or made to pay increased premiums because someone else living in the home has an unspent conviction.


  1. Insurance companies should ensure they are asking the right questions, so people are not over-disclosing or confused as to what information they should be supplying.
  2. We want to see insurance companies introducing more nuanced policies, so they consider the specifics of an unspent conviction. This means they should look at the relevance of the offence as well as other characteristics such as how long ago it was or the age of the individual at the time of the conviction. Insurance companies should consider this information on a case-by-case basis rather than making blanket decisions.
  3. In line with requirements of the Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO), we would like to see insurance companies have easily accessible policies in place which set out their approach to dealing with criminal records data. These policies should set out what information they are collecting and how it will be used in respect of their decision-making, ensuring their response is fair and proportionate.

The prejudice, stigma and discrimination experienced by people with criminal records goes beyond accessing financial services and impacts people trying to get a job, find a home or engage in further study. We are calling for wider reform of the criminal records system to make it fairer, more proportionate and easier to navigate and understand for everybody. Find out more in our policy manifesto.


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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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