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Unlock Category: 9. Other areas of life

Help and support for your mental health

Telling a partner, family member or friend about your criminal record

Aim of this page

This page aims to address some of the issues people face in forming new relationships or friendships and maintaining existing ones. It also highlights some of the things to think about when disclosing your criminal record.

It is part of our information on personal relationships.

Why is this important?

Relationships are a really important part of life. Partners, family and friends give us someone to laugh with when things are good and someone to turn to in times of need. But, maintaining relationships and meeting new people can be hard, and having a criminal record can make it seem even more difficult. That’s one of the reasons why people with a criminal record can become extremely isolated which may lead to a decline in their mental health, at higher risk of drug or alcohol dependency or a return to their previous offending behaviour.

It’s important therefore not to become socially isolated and that you make the effort to stay connected with your existing friends and find ways of making new ones.

Starting a new relationship or friendship

There are many reasons why having a criminal record can make meeting new people seem daunting. Your experiences of the criminal justice system may have made you feel insecure, you might have lost your self-confidence or you may feel unworthy of a new relationship/friendship.

You’re likely to be concerned about telling new partners/friends about your criminal record and how they will react once you have told them. However, building new relationships will be vital in helping you to move on with your life.

It’s important to remember that irrespective of your criminal record, meeting a new partner or making friends gets harder as you get older. Depending on the nature of your offence and/or the sentence or disposal you received may mean that you’ll have restrictions on where you can go and who you can meet with. However, some things to consider:

  • Have a go at volunteering – Volunteering allows you to meet people who care about the same things as you do whilst gaining new skills and experience. If you’re looking for paid work, volunteering may improve your employability.
  • Go to night school – Night school classes don’t have to be boring and speaking to people whilst taking part in a pottery or Spanish class will be a lot easier than having a conversation during an aerobics lesson. Not only will you meet new people but you’ll learn new skills as well.
  • Join a gym
  • Reach out to neighbours and work colleagues

Telling your partner, family or friends about your criminal record

Telling a new partner, your family or friend about your criminal record could potentially be one of the most important discussions you’re likely to have. You may be wishing that you’d had the conversation sooner or concerned that telling them will put an end to the relationship. Despite these worries, not telling them means that you’ll always be looking over your shoulder waiting for the day when your past comes to light.

Giving some thought and preparation about how you tell them will hopefully make you feel more confident in dealing with the questions your partner/friend might have.

Consider what you’re partner/friend might want to know. This could include:

  • What happened? Be clear and concise. “I got involved in a fight with my partners ex-boyfriend. He’d been goading me for a while but on this occasion, I was the instigator. I was arrested, charged and served a short time in prison”.
  • Who else was involved in the incident? This could include others convicted with you or victims of your crime.
  • Where and when did it happen?
  • How did it happen? Think about what you did. What happened when you went to court? What sentence or disposal did you receive?
  • Why did it happen? Only include the facts and, without making excuses, think about the reasons why you committed the offence.

Keep going over the story making sure you get it clear in your own mind.

Think about the circumstances which led up to the offence (breaking up with a partner, issues with addiction, bad judgement). Go onto explain what you’ve done since then. This could be a practical change such as moving to a different area, attending a treatment programme etc or just your thoughts about the offence and what you’ve learnt from having a criminal record.

Don’t assume the worst. Consider what could go wrong and how you would respond if they did but also think about the positives that could come out of your disclosure.

Practice telling your story from beginning to end. Remember, it’s difficult to take things back once you’ve said them. If you can, practice with somebody that already knows about your conviction; not only can they give you feedback but it might help to calm your nerves.

  • Discussions of this type are usually best done in person. A self-disclosure letter to an employer might be fine but is unlikely to work so well with a partner/family/friend.
  • Make sure that you’re meeting somewhere private where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Give your partner/family/friend time to digest and consider what you’ve told them; you could try telling them on a Friday evening when they’ve got the weekend to think it over.

Talking about a conviction isn’t easy and you’ll probably have needed time to work out how you feel about the new relationship/friendship before talking about it. You might therefore need to apologise for not telling them earlier. For example “I have something to tell you, and I should have told you earlier but I was afraid that you wouldn’t want to have anything more to do with me once you knew”.

If you feel bad, show your feelings. If you feel remorse, make that clear. Don’t say something just because you think it makes you look better. Being genuine is more important than telling people what you think they want to hear.

Think about the consequences of telling them. Although you shouldn’t assume the worst, it’s good to be prepared for a bad reaction – shouting, crying, accusations or silence. Listen carefully to everything your partner/family/friend says and stay calm. If you’ve been listening, you can try to address some or all of the issues they’ve raised.

Your partner/friend is bound to have a lot of questions for you. Answer as many as you can even if you do find it painful to talk about.

Maintaining existing friendships after you’ve received a criminal record

Some friendships are easy; when you meet up it feels like you’ve never been apart, and these friendships won’t change just because you’ve been convicted of a criminal offence.

Some will however be a bit harder but, being open and honest with your friends is an important way of creating a strong support team that will be integral in helping you move on from your conviction.

Some points to consider when disclosing your conviction to your friends are:

How close you are to your friend will probably determine how much you feel comfortable telling them. This could simply be sharing the name of the offence you were convicted of, to providing details of the circumstances that led up to the conviction and the specifics of how it has impacted on your life.

Sharing such personal information can be uncomfortable so it might help to jot down your thoughts and the main points that you hope to get across. Friends may have their own thoughts on what’s important, so let them ask questions.

While you would hope that a good friend would be non-judgemental and supportive, you may find that the reality is slightly different. We’re often drawn to people who are similar to us and we want them to keep within the bounds of the image we have of them. The fact that you’ve acted out of character may challenge the image they have of you which can be frightening and cause uncertainty.

Some friendships won’t be salvageable but many will be. Acknowledge your faults and mistakes, be patient with your friend and keep your expectations realistic.

What concerns might partners, family or friends have about specific offences or your attitude towards them?

Hearing that their partner/family/friend has a criminal record might come as a shock but some offences will cause more concern than others as will your attitude towards them.

Violent offences

A violent offence can be anything from a caution for common assault after a playground fight to a significant prison sentence for GBH. A new partner is likely to be cautious about getting involved with a person convicted of a violent offence, especially if the offence was against a previous partner. If you’ve got an understanding of the circumstances or triggers that led to your conviction then talk about this and explain what, if any steps you’ve taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again, for example attending anger management courses.

Under Claire’s law a partner can ask the police to check whether you have a violent past. The police could decide to disclose information about your conviction if they felt that your partner was at risk of domestic violence from you.

Sexual offences

If you’ve been convicted of a sexual offence then it’s likely that you will have little option but to disclose (either because the police insist upon it or because of information that exists online). The thought of having the police, probation or social services involved in their lives will probably be a concern to your partner/friend especially if they have children of their own or work with them. Further information around disclosing convictions for sexual offences can be found here.

Under Sarah’s law a partner/family/friend or member of the public can apply to the police to request a disclosure (of child sexual offences) about a person who has any form of contact with a child or children.

Drug offences

Although partners and friends may be happy to overlook an offence involving possession, if it was your own addiction issues that led to your offending, then this may ring more alarm bells. An addiction to drugs or alcohol can place an enormous strain on any relationship and if appropriate, you should provide your partner/friend with some reassurance that you’ve addressed your issues with addiction.

White-collar crimes

Partners and friends may consider that anybody convicted of a white-collar crime poses little risk to their own personal safety. However, there is usually an element of dishonesty in these types of offences and demonstrating that you are an open, honest and trustworthy individual will be important.

Offences committed as a youth

Most people appreciate that adolescence can be a difficult time and for various reasons, some young people fall in with the wrong crowd or make impulsive or bad decisions. Offences committed when you’re young are often quite minor (even if there are lots of them) and friends/partners will probably find these a lot easier to forgive.

You’re in denial

If you’re telling your partner/family/friend about your criminal record, then you need to take ownership of it. People do make mistakes and learning from these is the best way of ensuring that you don’t repeat them. Not accepting responsibility for your conviction or denying it, is unlikely to be the best way to start a new relationship/friendship.

Minimising your offence or criminal record

Compared to other’s you’ve met during your criminal record journey, your offence or criminal record may seem relatively minor. However, to anybody who’s never had any dealings with the police, any conviction is likely to be a big deal. Avoid downplaying your conviction or joking about it when you disclose.

Personal experiences

The personal story below has been posted on theRecord, our online magazine:

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

More information

  1. For practical information – We have more information on relationships, children and dealing with social services
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the tag disclosure
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord.


Subject access request (SAR) – General information

Please note: This is quite new. Let us know what you think of it and how it could be improved. Leave your feedback. We will be updating it more as time goes by. To be notified of updates, sign up to our mailing list.

Aim of this page

The aim of this page is to provide some general information about subject access requests (SAR) including what information you’re entitled to, how to apply for it and how to raise a concern if you think your information is incorrect.

This forms part of our information on other areas of life.

Why is this important?

Everybody has the right under the Data Protection Act 2018 to make a request to any organisation, for a copy of the information that organisation holds about you.

There are many reasons why you may want to apply for an SAR. It could be to find out the reason why a certain decision has been made about you, for example an assessment about your performance at work. You might want to establish whether a company has the correct information about you; may be you want to know whether your employer is still keeping details of a conviction which has recently become spent. It’s important to know how to go about getting this information and also, what you can do if an organisation refuses to give it to you.

What is a subject access request (SAR)?

A subject access request is simply a verbal or written request under the Data Protection Act 2018 to an organisation asking for copies of personal data and any other supplementary information that organisation holds about you. An SAR enables you to understand how and why an organisation is using your data and to check that they are doing it lawfully.

What Information are you entitled to ask for?

A SAR gives you the right to request:

  • whether the organisation is processing your personal data;
  • a copy of the personal data they hold about you;
  • any other supplementary information.

In addition, you may also want to ask to be provided with details of:

  • the purpose for which your data is being processed
  • the types of personal data being processed
  • any third parties that your data is being shared with
  • how long your data will be kept for
  • how you go about making a request to have your data amended or deleted
  • how the organisation became aware of data if it was not provided directly by you
  • whether the organisation uses any automated decision-making processes.

Applying for your SAR

You can make a SAR request to an organisation verbally or in writing. If you make your request verbally, it’s recommended that you follow it up in writing to provide a clear trail of correspondence. Most organisations will have details on their websites or in their privacy policies as to how you can apply for your SAR.

When making a subject access request you should provide the organisation with the following information:

  • Your name and contact details
  • Any information used by the organisation which would distinguish you from others with the same name (for example an account number)
  • Specific details of the information you require together with any relevant dates – this should help the organisation deal with your request more quickly.

The ICO have a template letter which can be used when applying for your SAR.

Always keep a copy of your request together with proof of postage or delivery.

A SAR should be free of charge, although organisations can charge a reasonable administrative fee if you require additional copies or they believe that the SAR is ‘manifestly unfounded or excessive”. The organisation will have one month to respond to your request, but in certain circumstances can extend the time to an extra two months. In this case, they should inform you of the extension and the reason why it is needed.

Can an organisation refuse to provide you with an SAR?

An organisation may refuse your request if your data includes information about another individual, except where:

  • The other individual has agreed to the disclosure, or
  • It is reasonable to provide you with the information without the other individuals’ consent.

The organisation may also refuse if they believe that the request is ‘manifestly unfounded or excessive’.

In either case, they will need to provide you with the reason for their refusal.

How can you raise a concern regarding your SAR?

If you’re  unhappy with the way the organisation has handled your SAR you should first make a complaint to them.

If their reply does not resolve your concern than you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page.

  • ACRO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) – is the national police unit, who process subject access requests for information held on the Police National Computer (PNC) on behalf of most UK police forces.
  • Information Commissioners Office (ICO) – an independent body set up to uphold information rights. Their website provides more information and advice about SAR and how you can raise a complaint with them if an organisation doesn’t deal with your personal data properly.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found on police records – subject access request
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information.  You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord

This page was last fully reviewed and updated in July 2018. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to or completing a feedback form.


Information: Relationships, children and dealing with social services

Aim of this page

This information is designed to set out what you may need to consider if you have been convicted of a sexual offence and are looking to start a new relationship. It also looks at how social services may become involved in any new or existing relationship.

Why is this important?

If you have been convicted of a sexual offence, then you will naturally be concerned about disclosing this to a new partner, especially if your partner has children.

Many people with sexual or violent offences will be managed by the police, probation, prison and other professionals in order to protect the public from harm. These arrangements are referred to as MAPPA. As a result of this, the police or probation may chose to share details of your conviction with some of the following organisations:

  • Local authorities
  • Social services
  • Housing providers
  • Children’s services
  • Employers
  • Health services

If the police/probation choose to make a disclosure, then this could potentially have an impact on a new or existing partner, for example if they are working with children or have children of their own.

Its important to recognise that the police/probation may insist that you disclose your conviction to a new partner (or threaten to do it for you). This may also result in social services and/or other organisations becoming involved. Having an awareness of this will hopefully prepare you for dealing with them if, and when, they occur.

Starting a new relationship

For many people, getting a job, somewhere to live and starting a new relationship can all be seen as positive ways of moving on with life following a conviction. However, for anybody who has been convicted of a sexual offence, meeting somebody new can provide additional difficulties.

If you are on licence, you may find that additional conditions are added to it if you are convicted of a sexual offence. For example:

  • To tell your supervising officer if you start a new relationship.
  • To tell your supervising officer if you start a new relationship where the person resides in a house with someone under the age of 18.

If you are subject to notification requirements, you will also need to:

  • Notify the police where you are living in a household with a child under the age of 18. You will also be required to notify when residing or staying in a relevant household for a period of at least 12 hours with a child who is under the age of 18.

If you have any of the above restrictions, or if the police/probation believe that your new partner could be in any way vulnerable, then they will insist that you disclose your conviction to your new partner.

A good probation/public protection officer will give you an opportunity to do this for yourself. However, the time period they give is likely be to weeks rather than months. There is every chance that either the police or your probation officer will require clarification from your new partner that you have disclosed and what you’ve disclosed. It’s therefore in your best interest to be as up front and honest as you can.

Disclosing your conviction to a new partner

Telling somebody about your past can be hard. You may be worried that your new partner will judge you, lose respect for you or put an end to the relationship. Many people who have been convicted of a sexual offence will have no option but to disclose this to a partner, for fear of them finding out some other way. How you disclose will depend on the type of person you are. However there are some things that you may want to consider beforehand.

Tell the story to yourself first. Think about the who, what, where, when, how and why it happened.

Think about the circumstances at the time of the offence. Explain any events that led up to the incident and, more importantly, explain what you’ve done since.

Think about why you are telling your partner now and what impact it might have on them. For example, the possible involvement of social services if they have children.

Don’t immediately leap to the worst case scenario. Imagine step by step what might happen and how you could respond to anything that comes up.

Practice telling your story from beginning to end but don’t be tempted to write a script. You can’t assume how your partner will react so you have to keep the lines of communication open. It might be an idea to practice with somebody who knows the situation.

Meet at a time and place where you can focus entirely on each other. It’s always a good idea to tell your partner when they have time to digest the information, for example a Friday evening when they have the weekend to think about what you’ve told them.

This will certainly be the case if you feel you may have misled your partner in some way by not telling them earlier.

If you feel remorse, show it.

Be prepared for a bad reaction. You partner may shout, cry or be silent. It will probably come as a shock to them. People don’t always mean what they say in situations like this.

Questions from your partner may bring back unpleasant memories but try to answer as best you can. If you find it difficult to talk about, explain this.

Disclosing that you have a criminal record won’t necessarily be the end of the relationship. However, have realistic expectations and give your partner time and space to come to terms with what you’ve told them.

Starting a new relationship if your partner has children

When it becomes known that a person subject to the sex offence notification requirements (on the sex offenders’ register) is sharing the household or, has significant contact with children, then there is every likelihood that children’s services will become involved.

If this is the case, then children’s services will usually wish to carry out a risk assessment under Section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989. The child’s parent/carer will be told of the concerns held and, if it is appropriate, a child protection conference and/or legal proceedings may result.

What would a risk assessment involve?

Risk assessments are undertaken to evaluate:

  • The frequency and extent of your past offending behaviour
  • The level of danger that professional agencies have attributed to you in the past
  • The likely risk to current, future and potential victims
  • Your motivation to change or control your offending behaviour
  • Details of any intervention programmes that you have undertaken.

In addition, an assessment will be made of:

  • Your partner’s willingness and capacity to protect their children
  • Any risk posed to other members of the household or the extended family
  • Any risk posed to members of the wider community.

It is possible that any findings will be shared with other agencies (for example health care professionals, schools etc).

The process can be extremely intrusive and difficult and we have heard of situations where children’s services have threatened to take children into care if a man/woman refuses to break off their relationship with somebody who is on the sex offenders’ register.

Returning to your own family following a conviction for a sexual offence

If you are already a parent at the time you receive a conviction for a sexual offence, then there is a chance that there will be some involvement with children’s services, even if the offence was nothing to do with your own child. A risk assessment may be needed before you will be allowed any unsupervised contact, overnight stays or a return to the family home.

Social workers will be keen to speak to all members of the family together and also separately to ensure that:

  • You want to reintegrate with your family
  • Your family are happy for you to return to the family home and are not being coerced into agreeing to it
  • Key issues surrounding your offending behaviour have been addressed

Having a family of your own

All the time you are on the sex offenders’ register, you stand a good chance of there being some involvement with children’s services if you choose to start a family of your own. Once you come off the register, you should be treated no differently to any other couple looking to start their own family.

Child protection procedures

If children’s services believe that a child may be at risk of harm, they will try to establish what kind of assessment (if any) needs to be carried out and whether they should start a child protection enquiry. The aim of a child protection enquiry is to gather information about a child’s circumstances and decide whether any action is needed to keep them safe and well cared for.

If an enquiry demonstrates that there is no risk of harm to a child, then no further action will be taken. If children’s services feel that the family may benefit from additional support, then they may put some monitoring measures in place. This could be for example, ensuring that a child is never left unsupervised with the person who has a conviction for a sexual offence.

If it is believed that a child is, or is likely to be, suffering significant harm, then an initial child protection case conference will be arranged.

Challenging decisions and making a complaint

Parents, people caring for children, family members who are involved with a child and sometimes children themselves can make a complaint about a decision made by children’s services.

Complaints can be made about:

  • Any of the decisions of or services provided by a social worker or children’s services and
  • Not getting the services or help you or your child needs.

How do you make a complaint?

You can make a complaint by:

  • Arranging a face to face meeting with your designated social worker and discussing your complaint with them. Always follow up what you’ve discussed in writing so that you have a record of it
  • Completing the local authorities online complaints form
  • Writing to or emailing the children’s services complaints department.

In any complaint you should:

  • Put all your issues in one letter rather than writing lots of separate letters as this may come across as you being an habitual complainer
  • Keep your complaint as clear and brief as possible
  • Make sure you explain clearly what you believe children’s services has done wrong, how it has affected your child and what you would ideally like them to do to put things right
  • Keep a copy of the complaint and other relevant information relating to it.

What other ways could my new partner be affected by my offence?

Disqualification by association

If you are convicted of a sexual offence against a child, then anybody who lives in the same household as you could be disqualified from working in some jobs with children up to the age of eight. We have more information about disqualification by association.

Personal experiences

The personal stories below has been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Lucy Faithfull Foundation – A child protection charity working with people with convictions for sexual offences
  • Family Rights Group – A charity working with parents in England and Wales who have children in need, at risk or are in the care system

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on sexual offences
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the tag sexual offences
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord.

This page was last fully reviewed in December 2016. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating please let us know by emailing or completing a feedback form.

Improving your mental health

This is a short information page about improving your mental health. It’s for information only.  We are unable to provide advice on this.  For reasons why, click here.


People with convictions often feel unhappy, depressed, stressed or anxious. How we feel about ourselves affects the way we behave and how we cope with the worries of everyday life and the tougher times that we sometimes face.

The first step towards self-help is to admit that you are struggling. This does not mean you are “mentally ill” and many issues can be managed without the help of a GP by using the variety of self-help resources now available.

If you do need professional help, there is a wide range of support and services available to help you take back control of your life.

What is mental health and why is it important?

Mental health is a state of emotional and psychological well-being. It affects the way we think, feel and act. Good mental health enables us to meet the challenges of day-to-day life and allows us to feel joy and comfort.

Mental health disorders can also affect physical health leading to significant tiredness, sleeping problems, stomach pain, back pain, headaches, other forms of chronic pain, weight gain, diminished sexual desire and a weakened immune function.

Just like issues with physical health, problems with mental health can incapacitate us and prevent us from successfully managing our daily life. Mental disorders can make it difficult to find and keep a job and to get suitable housing. They can also lead to other serious drawbacks; people with convictions who have mental health illnesses are at an elevated risk of re-arrest and re-incarceration.

Caring for your mental health can improve your life and lead to fewer problems and struggles.

Who suffers from mental health problems?

Just like with physical health, anybody can suffer from mental health problems irrespective of their age, gender and background. About 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year.

Certain factors can increase the risk of developing mental health problems:-

  • Having a blood relative (a parent or a sibling) with a mental illness
  • Stressful life situations such as financial struggles, a loved one’s death or a divorce
  • Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury) such as a violent blow to the head
  • Traumatic experiences such as military combat, assault or sexual abuse
  • Being abused or neglected as a child
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Having few friends or few healthy relationships

Do people with convictions have an elevated risk of mental health difficulties?

People with convictions are often exposed to several risk factors at the same time. This can be a reason why mental health problems are common among people with convictions. Around 70% of men and women in prison have two or more mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Many have a history to attempted suicide and self-harm, while significant numbers have on-going illnesses such as schizophrenia and personality disorders.

Are mental health problems treatable?

Most mental health disorders – especially common ones such as anxiety and depression – are treatable. Some people recover completely, others learn to manage the problem effectively. There are a number of specialist services that provide various treatments, including counselling and other talking treatments. Crisis and home treatment teams can help in an emergency and provide help in your own home. Most people recover from mental health disorders without needing to go into hospital.

When to look for help

It is worth seeking help when:-

  • You experience distress (including sadness, anger, irritability, fear, anxiety, helplessness, confusion and embarrassment) for more than just a few hours at a time, or the distress lasts for longer periods of time such as weeks and months
  • You find that distress interferes with your everyday life
  • You’ve experienced an excruciating situation and you can’t seem to stop thinking about it
  • The distress you feel leads to risky thoughts and behaviour, such as considering suicide or harming yourself to alleviate painful feelings
  • You feel distressed frequently and you do not really know why
  • You continue feeling bad even when good things happen to you
  • You feel a need to use alcohol or drugs in order to feel better
  • You’ve lost someone or something important to you
  • A friend or family member tells you he or she is worried about you

How to find out what is wrong

The first step would be to make an appointment with your GP. They can refer you to Community Health Services to find out what is happening with you and how to best deal with the problem. Community mental health teams aim to provide the day-to-day support needed to allow a person with mental health problems to live in the community.

If you prefer not to go to your GP, you might be able to access support through a range of other services in the voluntary sector. Many of these will have websites or helplines that you can contact.

Unlock staff and volunteers are not experts on mental health issues, and we cannot offer specific help or advice, but the following is a summary of the websites that we found to be helpful.



Simply talking about your feelings can help you stay in good mental health and deal with times when you feel troubled.  Read more at the Mental Health Foundation website.


The Mental Health Foundation offers a number of free audio podcasts that can help you relax and improve your sense of wellbeing. They are designed to fit around your lifestyle and provide an introduction to the skills and techniques that can help you live a mentally healthier life.

NHS Moodzone

NHS Choices has a very useful page called Moodzone. The content is “sub-clinical”, which means it deals with feelings, mood and common life problems that are not clinical diagnoses. It is helpful if you have been feeling down for a few days, or you are having a stressful time which is causing you to feel worried and anxious. A good starting point is the online mood assessment quiz, which takes about 10 minutes to complete and offers useful information, interactive tools and videos to support you on your way to feeling better.

Professional services


You should make an appointment to see your GP if you feel depressed or if you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy. Mental health services are free on the NHS, but you will usually need a referral from your GP to access them.

Mental Health Services

If you want to talk to someone right away, or if you are in a crisis or emergency situation, the NHS Choices website has a list of mental health helplines and emergency telephone numbers.

Other help and advice

There is a huge range of organisations that can offer help and advice. Click here for further information.

For organisations that can provide counselling services click here.

More information

  1. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline.



Going on a game show with a criminal record


Back in 2011, a case in the UK raised the question of whether game show producers should run background checks on their contestants to screen those who have criminal convictions.

At the time, the media had a field day (see, for example, the Mail Online and the Sun), after a contestant on ITV’s Red or Black won a top prize of £1 million and it was subsequently revealed that he had been convicted of assaulting a woman and sent to prison for 5 years in 2006. Producers on the programme had been aware of his criminal conviction but believed it was the result of a confrontation with another man. Following his win, there were calls in the press for him to be stripped of his prize money after full details of his offence emerged, but it was later reported that he was able to keep his prize money.

This case is just one example of how issues like this have caused difficulties for people with convictions. The information below will hopefully clarify the situation for people thinking about applying to go on a game show.

What production companies might ask

We see many production companies that ask potential contestants to declare criminal convictions – they often ask a question as part of their application process. Sometimes, they will ask about ‘unspent’ convictions only, although often they will simply ask “do you have a criminal record”.

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, if you are asked by a production company to disclose criminal convictions, you should only disclose those which are unspent.

How they might check

If they wish to undertake any formal criminal records check, they would only be eligible to carry out a basic check through DBS which would only reveal unspent convictions. However, in practice, companies rarely go down this route.

In our experience, if you disclose something, some production companies will ask that you provide a copy of your criminal record (usually by providing a copy of your police subject access request). Technically, if this is required, then this would be regarded as an enforced subject access which breaches section 56 of the Data Protection Act. You should be entitled to provide a basic check, which will only disclose any unspent convictions that you have.

Will I be successful?

There is no legal or moral reason why somebody with a previous conviction shouldn’t be able to appear on a game show, but as can be seen from the case above, in a society which struggles to accept reform and rehabilitation, it’s not uncommon to find production companies taking quite a strict approach. However, this will very much depend on the individual production company and the programme itself.

What else you should consider

As the case in 2011 shows, there’s more to think about than just whether the production company will give you a place on the show.

In that case, it was ‘revealed’ by the victim of the contestant, who reportedly went ‘to the press’ about his past. This means that, regardless of how the production company deals with convictions, regardless of whether you decide to disclose or not, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that you might be going on national TV, where people who know about your past might flag this up. You’ve got to think about whether this is something you want to put yourself and your family through. This is a very personal decision, which depends on your particular situation and what your convictions relate to.


The ‘google effect’, internet search results and the right to be forgotten

Aim of this page

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 is no compelling reason for it to remain. This right to erasure is often referred to as ‘the right to be forgotten’.

This page sets out how to request the removal of online information and how you can appeal the decision if an online search engine refuses your request.

This is part of our section on information on the internet.

Why is this important?

Once your conviction is spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, there is no legal obligation for you to disclose it when applying for the majority of jobs. However, information on the internet can stay around, long after a conviction becomes spent.

We’re aware that some employers will do ‘Google’ searches as a way of informally checking someone’s criminal record. If there are stories on the internet which relate to your conviction, an employer may be able to find out more about you than they are legally entitled to know.

If you’re aware of any links to your name on the internet and your conviction is spent, it’s definitely worth applying to have the links removed. If your application is successful, then you can be confident that any future employer or work colleague who searches for your name on the internet, won’t be able to find any information relating to your criminal record.


In May 2014, Google launched a system whereby individuals can request information about them be removed from Google’s search results. This came about because of a ruling on the 13th May by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The case was brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results infringed his privacy. The court found in his favour, which has already had wide-reaching consequences for search engines like Google.

The ruling only covers the removing of the search results – the information will still exist on the website that published the original article but Google won’t be able to deliver matches to some enquiries that are entered. Deletion of the original information would still be the responsibility of the website owner, and in our experience, it’s very rare that websites agree to remove details relating to convictions (see more in reporting of criminal records in the media).

Information will only disappear from searches made in Europe. Queries piped through its sites outside the EU will still show the relevant search results.

However, many people are still seeing the ruling as a potential way of dealing with the ‘google effect’ that often haunts people for lots of different reasons, and our Helpline and Forum have already seen this being raised by quite a few people when it comes to past convictions that have been reported online. So the important question for us is whether it will actually help people with convictions?

Is it likely to help people with convictions?

At the moment, the answer is that we simply don’t know. That’s why we want to encourage people with spent convictions to submit a request (see ‘What next’ below) to see how Google are dealing with requests like this.

Google itself has admitted that their system is their “initial effort” at complying with the Court’s judgement, and there’s little evidence of how they’re dealing with individual applications. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the judgement surprised many people, including Google themselves, and initial reports suggest that they’re being swamped with requests, with some suggesting that Google has been receiving over 10,000 requests per day. The ruling applies to other search engines too (e.g. Yahoo, Bing).

Google has said that information would start to be removed from mid-June and that decisions about data removal would be made by people rather than an algorithm which governs almost every part of Google’s search system.

In July 2014 Google removed a link to a story about an archaeology specialist who had received a conviction for shoplifting in May 2006.  Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, his conviction became spent in May 2008.  The individual had previously complained to the Press Complaints Commission in 2010 and despite two factual amendments being made, his case was dismissed by the PCC. He applied to Google in Summer 2014 and his request was granted.

Between May and October 2014, Google fielded requests from the UK to de-link some 18,304 websites; it has removed approximately 35% of requested URL’s.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in their “Court reporting: What to expect – Information for the public guidance”, have also made reference to the removal of links stating:

“If your convictions have been ‘spent’, you may have legal rights to have links to articles about these convictions to be removed from search engines. If you make a formal request to an internet search engine directly, they may remove these articles from search results.”

Google’s system

They’ve specifically stated that, when looking at whether to remove a search result, they’ll look at whether there’s a public interest in the information, and they mention criminal convictions in particular. At this point, it’s unclear how Google is making a decision about whether to approve a request that is made. The court ruling told Google it needed to provide users with an option to erase search results that were “inadequate, irrelevant or excessive” but also “outdated”.

From our point of view, we strongly believe that once a conviction is spent, this should be removed from the internet (on request). Otherwise, protections that are afforded under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act are undermined.

It’s highly unlikely that Google will be willing to remove search results that relate to unspent criminal convictions. It is more likely where a conviction is spent, but at the time of writing, we’re unaware of any successful case where Google has agreed to remove search results relating to spent convictions.

The Information Commissioner’s Office view

The ICO themselves are looking at what this means for people in the UK.  In a blog post, a particular point they made was that;

“It is also important to remember that the exemption for journalism, art and literature under Schedule 2, part 5 (26) of the Data Protection Act 2018 can be applied by media organisations, bloggers and other publishers of information, depending on the circumstances. What this is not, then, is a full or absolute ‘right to be forgotten’.”

This casts doubt over to what extent Google (and others) will remove details such as convictions, where media organisations have claimed a legitimate exemption of the basis of journalism.

The Article 29 Working Party (which the ICO is part of) Guidelines on the implementation of the Courts judgement, gives a good indication as to how the ICO will treat complaints that it deals with. The ICO has also published their search result delisting criteria.

Making an application to Google

As part of Google’s current system, you have to do a couple of things.

Firstly, you have to provide the URL links for each link appearing in a Google search.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you have to explain why the search result is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate”. At the moment, the clearest argument is that your convictions are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, and so in most cases, you can treat it as if it had never happened. You should look to put forward any other reasons why you think it meets the definition of “irrelevant, outdated or inappropriate”. Until we begin to see examples of what’s worked and what hasn’t, it’s difficult to give much more guidance at this stage. The ‘representation box’ only allows you to use 1000 characters so you’ll need to keep your argument short and succinct.

Thirdly, you have to provide proof of your identity. Some people have expressed concern to us about this last point. However, we have no reason to think that this should put people off – ultimately, if your information is already available online, this application process cannot make things worse!

We have devised a search engine removal request template which can be used as a guide to completing the online form.

If you’re interested in making an application to Google, the online form is available here.

What next? Submit a request and see what they say!

We’re keen to see how Google are dealing with applications from people with convictions.

To do this, we’re encouraging people with spent convictions to complete Google’s online form, and get a decision from them. Bear in mind that they’re dealing with a lot of applications at the moment, so there might be quite a wait before you get a decision.

Once you receive a decision, please forward it to us to let us know what their decision is and why. You can forward their reply to us by sending it to (we won’t share your personal details externally). This will help us to collect evidence of how Google are dealing with requests from people with convictions, and help us to improve the information and advice we’re giving on this issue.

Reporting a concern to the Information Commissioner’s Office

Once you have a decision from Google, if they refuse your application, we would advise people to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Again, as it’s a new system, it’s unclear how the ICO is going to deal with these types of complaints. They have published a blog post in which they say that they’ll be looking for “evidence of damage and distress to individuals” when reviewing complaints about Google and others’ search results.

What will the ICO do?

If you decide to make a complaint to the ICO regarding Google’s refusal to remove a link then, the ICO will consider your request based on a set of criteria. If they believe that any links should be removed they will contact Google and ask them to de-list the information. Google will either agree with the ICO removing the link or refuse and refer back to the ICO.

If Google inform the ICO that they are refusing to remove a link after a request is made, the ICO will review the matter under their case review process with the involvement of senior colleagues, taking into account all of the circumstances of the case and arguments presented by all parties in order to decide whether the original decision was correct.

Where the ICO agrees with Google and decides that the link does not have to be removed from their search engine, you can still make an application to the court under section 167 of the Data Protection Act 2018, seeking an order that the court is satisfied there has been an infringement of your rights under the data protection legislation. The court would reach its own view as to whether they are satisfied there has been an infringement of your rights under the act. If you pursue this option you may wish to seek independent legal advice.

Having reviewed the overall circumstances of the case, we have concluded that it is appropriate to amend our assessment and we consider the search results likely to comply with the Data Protection Act. Therefore the ICO will not be requiring Google to delist the search results.

Although we recognise that the conviction is now deemed ‘spent’ for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, and we take this into account, we must also consider the public interest in the availability of information about criminal convictions. Our published criteria explain that we are less likely to require the delisting of information about serious offences, and we consider sex offences involving minors to fall into this category.

While a number of years have passed since the conviction, we consider there to be a significant degree of public interest in the availability of information about convictions of this nature and on balance we consider this to mean the information in the search results remains relevant. In reaching this view, we also take account of the fact that you held a position of trust at the time the offences took place.

We recognise that the availability of the search results may be detrimental to you, but the right to have search results delisted is not absolute and does not necessarily entitle individuals to have negative information about them removed. When reaching decisions we must also take into consideration the relevance of the information to the public interest, which in this case we consider to be significant for the reasons I have explained. We have concluded that the original decision provided to you did not adequately take account of these factors.

Whilst the above refers to a sex offence, this does not mean you cannot apply to have your link removed if you have a spent conviction for a sex offence. You need to be aware that under ‘public interest’ a decision could be made that will result in your application to have your link removed declined.

Other ways of dealing with the Google effect

This problem isn’t new, and regardless of this new system, many people with convictions will continue to experience difficulties because of their convictions being reported online.

One option that some people look at is changing their name. Although this doesn’t get you away from your criminal record (because if an employer does a criminal record check, depending on whether your convictions are spent, and depending on the level of check, it will still come back) it does prevent people from getting access to information that they would otherwise not be allowed to (e.g. spent convictions if the job is covered by the ROA).

Another option that some people look at is trying to flood the internet with alternative, positive, stories about them, to ‘force down’ the reports that relate to their convictions.

Online reputation repair companies

There are many companies offering services to repair your online profile by replacing negative search results with positive coverage. These can be very expensive, often tying you in to long term contracts and only doing what you can do yourself.

If you’ve used one of these companies we’d like to hear from you. Tell us about your experiences by emailing

Personal experiences

The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

Success with dealing with the ‘google-effect’ – Sam explains how her life has been turned around since Google agreed to remove links to her name

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Information Commissioners Office – The ICO are an independent authority set up to uphold individuals’ information rights.
  • Mycleanslate – If you have a spent conviction, Mycleanslate may be able to act on your behalf by making a request to search engines such as Google, Yahoo and bing to have links to your name removed. They currently charge a flat fee of between £100 – £250.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on changing your name and counteracting negative ‘Google’ or other internet search information
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the tag of ‘google-effect’
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Our policy workRead about the policy work we’re doing on this issue
  5. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page below
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine
  5. Help our policy work – Stopping the ‘Google effect for people with spent convictions.

This page was last fully reviewed and updated in February 2017. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to


Shotgun and firearms licence

This is a short information page about applying for a shotgun or firearms licence.

It forms part of our information section on other areas of life affected by a criminal record.

Who do I apply to?

To apply for a shotgun or firearms licence, you must apply to your local Police force. For an example of this, see the Sussex Police Firearms Licensing page.

For further information about the application process, have a look at the GOV.UK website here.

Can I apply for a licence if I have a criminal record?

Section 21 of the Firearms Act 1968 prohibits a person from possession of any type of firearm if you have been given a custodial sentence when convicted of a criminal offence.

  • If you have received a custodial sentence (including a suspended sentence) of between 3 months and 3 years then you are prohibited for a period of 5 years from the date you are released.
  • If you have received a custodial sentence of 3 years or more then you are prohibited for life, from the date of release.

The prohibition may be lifted on application to the Crown Court. For further advice you should consult a solicitor.

What do I need to disclose to the police?

All previous convictions must be declared on the application form. It is an offence under Section 28A(7) of the Firearms Acts 1968-1997 to make a false declaration when answering this question. You are not permitted to withhold previous convictions by virtue of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1975 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (see notes in Part A on the application form).

Not all convictions are relevant but your age when they were committed and the length of time without re-offending are factors which are considered in addition to the seriousness of the offence.

The police will also ask for details of cautions/convictions of any person over the age of 18 who will be resident in the property where the firearms are going to be kept. If your partner is prohibited from possessing a firearm because they’ve received a custodial sentence in the past, then the police may refuse your licence application. Alternatively, they may issue you with a licence with certain conditions, for example that your partner doesn’t have any access to any of the weapons; you will be made aware that you would be committing an offence if you allowed your partner access.

If your application is refused, you will receive details of the reasons for the refusal and a full refund of your application fee.

Useful links

A Freedom of Information request by the BBC to the Isle of Man Constabulary revealed that nearly 40% of all registered gun and crossbow owners on the Isle of Man has a criminal record.

As of 31 March 2019, 2,003 people held certificates for firearms and regulated weapons with 789 of these (39%) having at least one conviction.

Although the above information doesn’t relate specifically to England and Wales, it’s interesting to see that it is possible to get a licence.

More information

  1. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline.

Changing your name

Aim of this page

If you’ve ever considered changing your name, then this page aims to set out ways in which you can go about doing it.

Why is this important?

People change their names for many reasons. For people with convictions, it is generally because they want a fresh start. The “google effect” means that for many, their past can be accessed at any time online, particularly if the original conviction was featured in the media. If you’ve been unsuccessful in getting a search engine to remove links to your name, then changing it may be the next best option.

Why bother?

Firstly, it’s worth noting here that changing your name isn’t a way for you to get away from your criminal record being formally disclosed, for example when a criminal record check is carried out. It’s also not for everyone. Some people feel (understandably) connected to their name as part of their identity, and so don’t want to give this up.

The main reason behind it is to try to avoid what could be described as ‘informal’ disclosure, such as what people read in newspapers or online.

If you’ve secured a new job, moved to a different area or made new friends, there is always a fear that new work colleagues or friends will treat you differently if they find out about your previous convictions before you’re ready to tell them. We often hear from people who managed to get a job where they weren’t asked to disclose their convictions, but then a colleague looked them up online and notified the employer who decided to terminate their employment. We also hear of people who reach the stage where their conviction becomes spent, but the newspaper’s website which featured the original conviction details refuse to remove the details from their site.

Are you allowed?

There is nothing preventing people with criminal convictions from changing their name.

If you have any pending criminal prosecutions against you then you will be required to notify the police about the change. If you are on licence or under probation, then you will be required to inform your probation officer and if you are on the Sex Offenders Register, you are required to notify the police within 3 days of changing your name. Failure to inform the police may result in a criminal conviction.

How to change your name

If you wish to be known by a different name you can change your name at any time, providing you do not intend to deceive or defraud another person. There is no legal procedure to follow in order to change a name. You simply start using the new one. You can change your forename or surname, add names or rearrange your existing name.

There are some restrictions about what you can change your name to and why. You may not change your name:-

  • In order to commit an illegal act, i.e. fraud.
  • To something that is rude or offensive.
  • To imply or include a title such as Lord, Lady, Duke or Duchess (unless that’s true)
  • To something that includes symbols or numbers.

Before you change your name, you should check that your name change will be accepted by:-

  • Your employer
  • Any institute or professional body that you are a member of
  • Your country of origin, if you are a foreign national living in the UK
  • The relevant authorities of the country you are living in, if you are a UK national living overseas

Once you have decided to change your name, you can use the new name for all purposes.

Evidence of change of name

You don’t need legal proof that you have changed your name, provided that you can be identified by your new chosen name.

However, there are some circumstances e.g. applying for a passport, when additional evidence of the change of name is required. The evidence required varies depending on the purpose for which it is needed and can include:-

  • A letter from a responsible person
  • A public announcement
  • A statutory declaration
  • A deed poll


A letter from a responsible person, such as a GP, solicitor, priest or MP will often be enough evidence that you have changed your name. The letter should state that the person has known you in both names and that the change of name is to be used for all purposes. A letter will not be enough if you are applying for a UK passport.

Public announcement

You may want to record your name change by placing an advertisement in a local or national newspaper. This should state that you have stopped using your previous name and have assumed a new one. A copy of the advertisement can then be used as evidence that you have changed your name.

Statutory declaration

For most purposes, a statutory declaration is accepted as evidence of your change of name. A statutory declaration is a statement recording your intention to abandon your old name and adopt a new one.

You can prepare a statutory declaration yourself, or use a solicitor to help you.

You must sign your statutory declaration using your new name. It should be witnessed, either by a solicitor (other than the one that helped you prepare the declaration) or by a Justice of the Peace (a lay magistrate who works in the Magistrates Court).

Some Magistrates Courts are reluctant to witness statutory declarations for a change of name because they believe that a deed poll should be used instead. You should explain to the Court that you require a statutory declaration purely as evidence and that you do not want the more formal deed poll.

Solicitors usually charge for preparing and witnessing a statutory declaration and you will need to pay a fee to the Court if a JP witnesses your declaration.

Deed poll

A deed poll is a formal statement to prove that your name has been changed. For most people it will not be necessary to prepare a deed poll as evidence that they have changed their name. However, there may be cases when a deed poll is required, e.g. when applying for a passport.

You can prepare your own deed poll. Once it is prepared you should ensure that it is signed in the presence of an independent witness, who must also add their name, address and occupation. You will need to have two witnesses if you wish to have your deed poll enrolled (registered). The deed poll should state that it is ‘signed as a deed and delivered’.

There are online services to help you prepare a deed poll and these may be cheaper than using a solicitor. If you want to officially enrol the deed poll, it is advisable to have it prepared by a solicitor, although this can be expensive.

Enrolling a deed poll provides a public record of a person’s name change. Since 1914 the details of the name change are published in either the London Gazette or the Belfast Gazette. Deed polls that have been enrolled at the Royal Courts of Justice in London remain there for five years. After that, they can be found at the National Archives located in Richmond, Surrey.

You can get a deed poll enrolled in the central office of the Supreme Court and the cost for preparing and enrolling the deed poll is currently £102.

The contact details are:

Enforcement Section Manager,
Room E15,
Queen’s Bench Division,
Action Department,
The Royal Courts of Justice,
Telephone: 020 7947 7772 (option 5)
Email: (enquires only)

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on information on the internet, online and through search engines like Google
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page below
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum


Sources of identification

Aim of this page

This information aims to set out the reasons why you are likely to need identification and the different types of identification that are available.

Why is this important?

Whether you’re trying to open a bank account or apply for a job you’ll need to be able to provide the bank or a potential employer with some form of identification in order to verify that you are who are say you are. Getting ID whilst you’re in prison or just after release can be quite difficult and this page sets out some of the options which may be available to you.

ID required when opening a bank account

If you are looking to open a bank account, you can find further information here.

ID required when seeking a job

Right to work

Employers have a legal obligation to confirm the identity of anybody they are looking to employ as well as their right to work in the UK in order to comply with the requirements of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. If they’re unable to do so then it’s unlikely that they’ll take your application any further.

  • Appearance (for example photo ID)
  • Full name (including forenames, last name and any other name you wish to be legally known by)
  • Signature
  • Date and place of birth
  • Current address

If you are having difficulties providing documents to your employer, see the section below.

If you’re applying for a job which requires a formal criminal record check then in addition to verifying your identity with your employer, you’ll need to provide evidence to the Disclosure and Barring Service. The documents you need will vary depending on the level of check that you are applying for.

Basic criminal record checks

To verify your identity for a basic DBS check you’ll need:

  • Details of your addresses for the last 5 years and the dates you lived there
  • Your National Insurance number
  • A debit or credit card
  • Proof of your identity, for example a passport, valid driving licence or birth certificate.

Further information can be found on our step by step guide to applying for a basic DBS check.

Standard and enhanced criminal record checks

Anybody applying for a standard or enhanced check will need to provide documents from three groups. Primary documents include:

  • Passport
  • Biometric residence permit
  • A valid driving licence (full or provisional)
  • Birth certificate
  • Adoption certificate

Further details can be found here.

ID required when making benefit claims

If you’ve set up an online account to start your Universal Credit claim, you’ll be asked to prove your identity using the government’s ‘Verify’ system. If you have any problems doing this, you’ll need to provide proof of your identity in person at the job centre.

The documents you will need could include:

  • Your passport
  • Driving licence
  • EEA national identity card

A full list can be found here.

Under the list of Secondary ID, the government refer to Form B79, a form used to notify the Department for Work and Pensions staff that a person has been discharged from prison and advised to claim benefit. However, following recent discussions Unlock have had with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) there appears to be uncertainty as to whether this form is still being used by prisons. We are awaiting further clarification around this.

Overcoming problems with ID

Having no photographic ID

If you genuinely can’t provide photographic ID then it may be worth asking your employer if they would accept a counter-signed passport photograph. Your employer may insist that the person signing the form has some standing in the community and has known you personally for say at least two years.

Having no proof of address

If you can’t provide proof of address in your own name, then a check of the electoral register can be carried out with the local authority where you are residing. If you’re officially recognised as homeless and of no fixed abode, then it may be possible to get a referral to Crisis who may be able to support you in getting a copy of your birth certificate or a driving licence as a suitable form of ID.

Documentary evidence for young people

Young people (those aged between 16 – 19) often struggle to provide ID. Employers will often accept:

  • A valid and in-date identity card carrying the ‘PASS’ accreditation logo, for example a UK CitizenCard – see below
  • A photograph counter-signed by a person of some standing in the community

  • A student loan agreement
  • A qualification certificate
  • NI card or letter from HMRC
  • A letter from your headteacher, tutor or college principal verifying your name, address, date of birth etc.

Specific types of ID


CitizenCards were the first ID cards in the UK to bear the hologram issued by PASS (Proof of Age Standards Scheme). This means that it’s recognised as valid ID under the law. The standard cost is £15. However, through a prison or probation officer, it’s possible to get them for £7.50. A prison or probation officer needs to register with CitizenCard, so that they hold a copy of their signature on their records. Then, as part of the individual application process, the person registered counter-signs a photo of you. If you want to apply for one at £7.50, you’ll need to try and find someone is registered with CitizenCard. Alternatively, a prison or probation officer can contact CitizenCard directly if they are interested in registering. There are some specific forms that they need to complete. People on probation are able to make use of the discounted price through their probation officer.

A standard application takes approximately 21 working days although it is possible to pay an additional £15 (£30 in total) for an urgent application which is returned within 2 working days.

If you don’t have any official documentation confirming your identify then you’ll need to get a referee to countersign a passport sized photograph and your application form. Referees should be over the age of 25, in full time education and be on the permitted list (see below)

  • Your doctor / dentist / nurse / administrator at your GP or dental surgery
  • Your teacher / tutor / head of year /administrator at your school, college or university
  • Your social worker
  • Your certified solicitor
  • A bank or building society staff member at your branch
  • Your prison or probation officer
  • Your Jobcentre Plus work coach

National Insurance Number (NINO)

  • you need claim benefits and/or tax credits
  • you have the right to work in the UK
  • you are entitled to and have applied for a student loan and require a National Insurance number

NINOs are issued automatically to UK born residents at the age of 15 years and 9 months as a result of a sucessful claim for Child Benefit. Any adults who have not received a NINO through this process are required to attend a Jobcentre Plus Evidence of Identity interview in order for a NINO to be application. As the vast majority of the UK born adult population already have a NINO from age 16 onward. the adult NINO allocation process applies predominantly to people entering the UK from abroad. In addition to establishing identity, if applying for a employment-related NINO you also have to prove your right to work in the UK.

The primary purpose of a NINO is to provide an internal reference number which enables the correct link to be made between an indvidual and their social security, child support, tax or contribution record. For benefit purposes, an individual is required to either provide their NINO, or sufficient information for one to be traced or allocated.

For employment purposes an individual is required to obtain a NINO to ensure your contribution records can be accurated maintained. There is however no requirement for an individual to obtain a NINO prior to taking up employment. Employees are required by law to provide their NINO to their employer, but no specific time limit is set. Where an individual does not have a NINO, the employer should ensure they record the individuals full name and date of birth so that contributions can be recorded and linked to the individuals account when the NIN is received. It is in the interests of both the employers and employee that they do obtain a NINO at the earliest opportunity.

Applying for a National Insurance number

Jobcentre Plus will arrange an Evidence of Identity (EOI) interview for you or send you a postal application. They will confirm the date, time and location of your interview. They will also tell you what information and documentation is required to support your application.

What to expect at the ‘Evidence of Identity’ interview

The interview will usually be one-to-one (unless, for example, you need an interpreter). You will be asked questions about who you are, why you need an National Insurance number, your background and circumstances. During the interview an application for an National Insurance number form will be completed and you will be asked to sign this form.

If you don’t have any official documents you still have to go to the interview. The information you are able to provide might be enough to prove your identity.

Proving your identity

You will need to prove your identity to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if:

  • you are starting work or looking for work and need an National Insurance number
  • you need an National Insurance number in order to claim benefit, pension or allowance

DWP will accept a range of documents (originals, not photocopies) when you are proving your identity. The following list is not exhaustive and you should always bring as many identity documents as you can to your interview.

  • valid passport (UK or foreign)
  • national identity card (UK or foreign)
  • residence permit or residence card (including biometric immigration residency documents)
  • full birth certificate
  • adoption certificate
  • full marriage certificate
  • civil partnership certificate
  • driving licence (UK or foreign)

If you do not have any of these (or any other) identity documents, then you can still apply for a National Insurance number and the information you supply will be checked and may be sufficient to prove your identity.

What happens after the interview

If you were asked to provide additional information you will need to do this by the agreed date. Jobcentre Plus will then write to you letting you know whether your application has been successful or not and notifying you of your National Insurance number where appropriate.

You should tell your employer your National Insurance number as soon as you know it.

However you obtain your National Insurance number normally you’ll get a plastic National Insurance number card too. This may take up to 12 weeks from when you applied.

The card is a useful reminder of your National Insurance number but it is not proof of your identity and you don’t need to have one to start work. It’s your National Insurance number that’s important not the card.

If you’ve lost or can’t remember your National Insurance number

If you think you already have a number but can’t remember it, you might be able to find it on official paperwork like:

  • your P60 (end of year tax statement, given to you by your employer)
  • a payslip
  • a copy of your annual tax return
  • other official correspondence

If you still can’t find your number, you can ask HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to confirm it by contacting the National Insurance Registrations Helpline on 0845 915 7006.

If you are in prison and need to know your existing National Insurance Number:

You will need to write a letter requesting your National Insurance Number.

  • Full Name
  • D.O.B
  • Last Residential Address
  • Current Address

The letter should be sent to HMRC NI, Contributions Office, Benton Park View, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE18 1ZZ

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on looking for (and keeping) volunteering and employment and financial issues.
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

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