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Pushing for improvements to how the Disclosure & Barring Service works


Has an employer wrongly checked your official criminal record? Find out more.

For more latest news, you can:

  1. see the posts at the bottom of this page
  2. click here for a full list of news posts
  3. sign up our mailing list to receive updates by email
  4. follow the latest on Twitter using the hashtag #wayDBSworks


The problem

The DBS doesn’t properly challenge employers who unlawfully access information about individuals, nor is the DBS responsive to the needs of people with convictions in the design and delivery of its services.


What we think needs to change

We believe that criminal record checking processes should operate more fairly for people with convictions, and be tightened so that employers are unable to carry out ineligible checks.

We are working on this issue as part of our fair access to employment project.


What we’re doing

As part of our fair access to employment project we are:

  • Pushing for individuals to be able to get a copy of their DBS check before applying for jobs, and for the DBS to introduce a basic disclosure service
  • Working with the DBS to ensure they advise people with convictions accurately, and consider them as a key stakeholder when making changes that have a specific impact on them
  • Monitoring the volume and type of checks carried out by the DBS, and publishing data to show trends and highlight issues that adversely affect people with convictions
  • Pushing for the introduction of a freely available online eligibility tool for both employers and individuals which determines what level of check that can be carried out
  • Pushing for the DBS to be proactive in preventing ineligible checks and for them to take against against employers blatantly applying for ineligible checks


Latest news

See the bottom of this page for our latest posts about this issue.

You can also find below the latest from Twitter, using the hashtag #wayDBSworks (although we cannot endorse what gets displayed here).

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For more information

  1. Practical self-help information  – We have guidance on the Disclosure and Barring Service on our information site
  2. Personal experiences – We have posts relating to the way the DBS works on our online magazine, theRecord
  3. Discuss this issue – Share your views and experiences on our online forum


Learning from overseas


In recent years, the UK criminal records disclosure system has been subject to intense scrutiny. A series of piecemeal reforms in response to high-profile events has resulted in a confusing and complicated process which, in many ways, undermines rehabilitation policies and places additional obstacles in the way of people with convictions in moving on positively with their lives.

Other countries have developed their systems in different ways, responding to different priorities. We believe it’s important to learn the lessons from other countries.


Learning from Europe – Winston Churchill Fellowship

Christopher Stacey, Co-Director at Unlock, was awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in 2014.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust is UK’s national memorial to Sir Winston, and each year the Trust awards Travelling Fellowship grants to UK citizens in a range of fields to enable Churchill Fellows to carry out research projects overseas. These projects are designed to exchange ideas and best practice, and build greater understanding between peoples and different cultures, in order that professions and communities in the UK can benefit from these shared experiences.

The output of the project that Christopher delivered was a report which made recommendations to the UK.

Download the report here (published April 2015).

For more information about the Fellowship, click here.


Learning from overseas

Building on the Winston Churchill Fellowship, we will continue to look at ways to learn from, and influence practice, overseas. Latest news can be found at the bottom of this page.


Financial services

The problem

People with convictions can often face barriers in financial services as a direct result of their criminal record, particularly with insurance, mortgages and in some cases, bank accounts.


What we’re doing

Our work mainly focuses on insurance and bank accounts.

In 2014, we completed a 9-year long project to develop access to basic bank account services for people in prison before release.

In early 2013, we undertook research into the role of credit unions.

In 2012, we secured reforms to insurance disclosure law.

In 2010, we published a report, Time is Money.



Latest news

See the bottom of this page for our latest posts about this issue.


Useful links, resources and publications

Written submission to the Financial Inclusion Commission (Unlock, November 2014)

Unlocking Credit Unions (with LJMU) (January 2013)

Briefing on the Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representations) Bill (February 2012)

Written Evidence to the Special Bill Committee – Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representations) Bill (November 2011)

Time is Money: The Role of the Financial Services Industry in Reducing Re-Offending (in CII, with Kimmett Edgar) (April 2011)

Time is Money – Financial responsibility after prison (with the Prison Reform Trust) (October 2010)

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