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Unlock wins an award

We are delighted to announce that Unlock has been awarded 1st prize in the 2014 Helpline Awards for the category “Best innovative use of technology”.

The Awards were held last Friday at the Annual Conference of the Helplines Partnership, who coordinated the awards as it reached its 25th anniversary of supporting helplines.

Explaining the reasons for why we were given the award, the judges’ commented;

  • “Excellent presentation of the impact user developments have had for the users/callers of the service. The combination of offline and online technology brings together an accessible and impressive support package.”
  • “Very sensitive area and this helpline has gone to extra lengths to ensure that callers can access information and advice. The disclosure calculator is particularly impressive and the fact that it achieves all of this with only 4 staff is particularly commendable.”


Unlock’s Christopher Stacey being presented the award by Nicola from the Helplines Partnership

On hearing the news, Christopher Stacey, Co-Director of Unlock, said “As a small charity, we work hard to find the right balance in delivering our charitably-funded services by using a digital-first strategy, which is reflected in websites such as our self-help information site and disclosure calculator – this helps us to reach the significant numbers of people that are affected by a criminal record. We combine this approach with making sure that we have staff and volunteers, all of whom have personal experience of having a conviction, at the end of a phone line, so that we’re able to provide the kind of one-to-one information and advice that people with convictions often need. We are particularly grateful to the peer volunteers that we train to help us to provide this helpline.”

“I want to thank the Helplines Partnership for their acknowledgement of our work. This award is a fantastic endorsement of our approach, which enables us to punch well above our weight given the size and resources that we have at our disposal, while making sure that at a policy level our independence allows us to challenge unfair policies, and support employers and others to develop fairer, more inclusive practices towards people with convictions.”

The Unlock team with the award. From left to right, Debbie Young, Debbie Sadler, Christopher Stacey and Julie Harmsworth




  1. Press/media 
  2. Unlock is an independent award-winning charity, providing trusted information and advice services for people with criminal convictions. Our staff and volunteers combine professional training with personal experience to help others overcome the long-term problems that having a conviction can bring. Our knowledge and insight helps us to work with government, employers and others, to change policies and practices to create a fairer and more inclusive society so that people with convictions can move on in their lives.
  3. Our website is
  4. A background to why Unlock was give the award is below


“Unlock helps people that are very unpopular. It does not attract any government funding. It is genuinely beneficiary led. With over 9.2 million people in the UK with a criminal record, and a quarter of people unemployed having a criminal record, the challenge is great.

The charity runs its national helpline in a particular way – its staff and volunteers (who all have convictions themselves) provide to thousands of people every year. The recent increase has been achieved by utilising email (30% of enquiries) and other ‘accessible’ routes (such as text, Skype). However, the helpline strives to achieve national impact on minimal resources by harnessing the power of innovative technology to reach as many people as possible.

In November 2013, the charity took its old, inaccessible information to launch a dedicated self-help website. is widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive source of practical information. In its first year, over 200,000 unique visitors used the site, with over 2,500 subscribed for email updates powered by MailChimp.

The charity turned complex disclosure legislation into a simple online tool to help people understand their rights; in the last year alone, helped over 8,400 individuals. Its online peer forum provides a safe space where individuals with convictions can go, 24/7, to receive advice from others, and its online magazine provides a way for individuals to share positive stories of their successes.

It achieves all this, and more, with just two full-time staff, two part-time staff, and a small team of volunteers.”

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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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