Skip to main content

Tag: Volunteering -

Unlock assists charity to safely recruit an individual with a criminal record into a volunteer role

Service user involvement aids rehabilitation and reform

Keep calm and volunteer

Unlock has been really fortunate over the years to find so many generous people that are willing to give their time and talents to help others. Here Roger tells us what he’s gained from his volunteering experience at Unlock.

As many of us know, getting a job with a criminal record can be hard and that was the position I found myself in several years ago. Getting those letters thanking me for my interest but telling me that my application wouldn’t be progressed was heart-breaking but even worse, were the employers that never even acknowledged them. A year of filling in forms or sending off my CV had seriously started to impact on my mental health and so, I decided to find myself a voluntary role.

Hallelujah, I found Unlock who were looking for a helpline advisor. As the helpline provided a peer-delivered service, for once my conviction was treated positively. The interview went well and before long, I’d started my training. Although it was interesting, it was also intensive and there were days when I left the office thinking that my brain was going to explode.

It probably took about 3 months before I felt confident in dealing with the majority of issues that people contacted us about although, it’s a constant learning process.

I currently volunteer on two days a week. The process of getting up and ready for work has added some routine and normality to my life and gives me a sense of purpose.

Some of the calls we take can be emotionally draining and when its busy it can feel quite stressful. However, knowing that the information or advice I’m giving will empower somebody to make well thought out, reasoned decisions is so rewarding. Just imagine somebody telling you:

“I can’t thank you enough for your help, you’ve just changed my life.”

Then back in March, we were hit by the pandemic and Boris told us all to ‘work from home’. We knew it was coming and the helpline was pretty well prepared. Although the number of people contacting us dropped, so too did the number of helpline advisors that were available to respond to enquiries. The helpline telephone landline was redirected to a mobile phone and all phone calls were answered by one advisor with one other responding to emails. Overnight we’d gone from 3 or 4 advisors each day to just 2.

Although the helpline was open throughout the lock-down, it was a very strange way of working and we were all relieved when we were able to return to the office at the start of July. The number of people contacting the helpline had started to increase and relying on just one advisor to answer all the telephone calls was putting them under a lot of pressure.

The need for social distancing means that there are still only 2 advisors in the office each day but it feels so good to have that interaction with colleagues. We’re receiving lots of calls from people who, as a result of the pandemic, have lost their jobs and are now looking for new positions (for some this will be the first time in many years and the first time they’ll have needed to disclose their criminal record).

These are indeed worrying times for all.

As I said at the start of my article, unemployment really did impact on my mental health but volunteering for Unlock was my salvation. We all know that survival is difficult without money and volunteering isn’t going to fill that need. However, if you find yourself struggling with feelings of anxiety, self-doubt or depression then I’d recommend getting in touch with your local volunteer centre to find out whether there’s anything available that ‘floats your boat’.

By Roger (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

We’d like to thank all of our volunteers both past and present for the work they’ve done and continue to do.

For many people volunteering is a positive and rewarding experience. It can help to boost self-confidence and self-esteem and if you’re looking for paid employment, adding it to your CV can make you stand out and look more attractive to potential employers.

Unlock’s volunteer programme for people with convictions has been running for many years and in that time, we’ve seen our volunteers go on to study for degrees at university, move into paid work or take on other volunteering roles. If you’re interested in joining our small, friendly team, take a look at the opportunities we have available here.

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on volunteering and you can find out more about the current vacancies we have at Unlock here.
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussion related to volunteering on our online forum.

Despite my criminal record, I am a good Samaritan

It’s important that any organisation working with the young or vulnerable carry out proper risk assessments and, as George’s story shows, formal criminal record checks and assessments don’t automatically lead to you being refused a voluntary role.


Just over two years ago I was convicted of an offence which means that I still have an unspent conviction.

My arrest and conviction was just what I needed to make me take a long hard look at the life I was leading. I knew what I was doing was wrong and during that period of my life, I’d pushed away the people that were important to me, making me feel more isolated than ever.

Although I needed an arrest to break my cycle of offending, it was nonetheless terrifying going through the criminal justice system, facing up to the crimes I’d committed and not know what would happen when I went to court. I was lucky that whilst I was going through this, I was able to reconnect with my family and some of my friends who gave me a tremendous amount of support – I don’t know how I would have got through it without them.

Finding myself in a much better place I decided about a year ago that I’d like to do some voluntary work to help others going through difficult times. I’d never contacted the Samaritans myself but I’d always been a bit in awe of an organisation who set out to ensure that there was always somebody there for anyone who needed a safe place to talk. And so, I found myself looking at the Samaritans website and finding out how I could go about becoming a listening volunteer.

I completed the application form and handed it into my local Samaritans branch and I was very quickly invited to attend an interview. Although there hadn’t been any questions on the application form about criminal records, I was fairly sure that I’d be asked about them at the interview but I wasn’t. There was a part of me that wanted to say something but I decided to just ‘go with the flow’ and tell them when I was asked.

I felt my interview had gone well and I was delighted to hear that I’d been successful and was invited to start my formal training. I was told that a pack of information would be sent to me setting out details of the training programme and telling me what I needed to bring to the first session. When I received this a couple of days later, reality hit.

I was told that although there’d be an introduction session where we’d introduce ourselves to each other, the main aim of the morning would be to do admin and form filling including completing the paperwork for our enhanced DBS checks!! I knew instantly that I needed to disclose my conviction before I got this far – I couldn’t bear the thought of meeting new people and getting excited and motivated by the role only to be turned down once they’d seen my DBS. So with some trepidation, I arranged to go and meet with the manager of my local branch.

The first thing I did as I sat down with her (Jean) was to apologise for not having had this conversation sooner. I was so nervous that my palms were sweating like mad but my mouth was so dry I could barely speak. Jean offered me a glass of water and told me to take my time. At the end of my disclosure she said:

Well that wasn’t too bad was it?

She went on to explain that there were no blanket bans on any offences for listening volunteers and that all criminal records were assessed on a case by case basis. She asked me about any restrictions/conditions I had and thanked me for being so upfront and honest. She encouraged me to go along to the first session, fill in my DBS form and meet the others.

I really enjoyed my training although at times it could be mentally draining and the more I did the more I realised how devastated I’d be if I was rejected as a result of my DBS check.

When the certificate came back, I was invited to another meeting to discuss its contents before being told that the Samaritans had no problem with me being a listening volunteer.

I’m sure there are people out there that will be alarmed to hear that somebody with a criminal record has been accepted as a volunteer. Let me reassure you – I don’t pose any risk to anybody I work with or listen to and I’m sure that the rigorous training I’ve been put through by the Samaritans would have highlighted any concerns they had. Many of the people I listen to are so desperate that they are considering ending their lives – if you were that person wouldn’t you just want someone to listen to you, would it matter that they’d made a mistake themselves in the past.

By George  (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

Thanks Unlock for being part of my journey – volunteering as a helpline advisor

Having met a member of the Unlock team during a Disclosure Workshop in prison, Reece was delighted to be able to continue this association when he secured a voluntary role as a helpline advisor.


It was early 2018 and I was nearing the end of my prison sentence when I was invited to attend a ‘Disclosure Workshop’ run by an organisation called Unlock. I’d never come across them before but the event looked as though it was going to cover more than just writing a disclosure statement (which indeed it did).

The first thing the speaker did was to tell us a bit about Unlock. I was surprised to hear that they were based in Kent, not too far from where I was going to be returning home to. It was weird but I almost immediately started to feel a natural affinity with this organisation – I guess when everything in prison is so strange then anything that’s familiar (in whatever way) feels good.

The Workshop was really good. It covered things I’d not come across before and dispelled some of the things you hear all the time in prison. There was plenty of time at the end to ask questions and it was obvious that the trainer knew her stuff and wasn’t thrown by any of the queries put to her. At the end of the event, I went to say thanks and mentioned that I’d be leaving prison in a couple of months and would be returning to Kent.

She asked me where in Kent I’d be living and whether I’d got a job to go to. I explained that I had no job but finding work was one of my main priorities as I couldn’t stand having no purpose to my day. She casually mentioned that Unlock took on volunteers to work as helpline advisors in their office and to get in touch when I was back home if it was something I’d be interested in.

Release day eventually arrived and I was off back to Kent – excited to be out but worried what the future might hold. I spent the first couple of weeks turning up for appointments with probation and the job centre and the more people I spoke to the more depressing the picture became:

People with convictions, especially those that have been to prison, find it virtually impossible to get jobs.

I’d realised that it was going to be harder than before my conviction, but ‘impossible’ surely not?

I went to sign on at a couple of agencies, all of whom told me that with my skills and experience, they’d have no trouble finding me work. That was until I told them that I’d just been released from prison having served just over a year of my 2.5 year sentence. After that I heard nothing.

Knowing that I had to do something to keep myself occupied, I contacted Unlock asking whether they still had any voluntary vacancies and explaining how I’d come to know about them. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to hear back from them, I doubted they even remembered me. How wrong could I be? Within a couple of hours I’d received an email back from Debbie, Unlock’s Advice Manager (and also the trainer I’d met in prison) who invited me to the Unlock office for an interview. The rest as they say is history.

I was offered a voluntary role as a helpline advisor and committed myself to two days a week. The training was intensive but from the outset, the support I got from the whole team was amazing; all of them were happy to help and share information with me.

I quickly realised that there are a lot of people out there who need the support of an organisation like Unlock. Funnily enough, not all of them had recent convictions, a lot were still having to deal with the consequences of a conviction they’d received 10 or 20 years ago! This sometimes made the job tough – listening to issues they were raising and trying not to compare their situation to my own.

On days when I was feeling a bit down, there was always somebody in the office to talk things through with and I realised that support is available, you just have to reach out for it.

My confidence and self-esteem improved hugely whilst I was at Unlock and this meant that I signed up for everything that was offered to me by the Job Centre; things I’d never considered before. My previous life had been spent working in an office but my new one is working in construction. I love seeing the results of my hard work and through the on-the-job training, I’ve gained a lot of new skills.

However, the beauty of this job is that nobody seems to care that I’ve got a criminal record. There’s a big labour shortage in the construction industry and all the site manager wants to know is that you’ve got the appropriate ‘cards’ to allow you to work on site and that you’ll pull your weight whilst you’re there. I’m earning a decent income and the physically demanding aspects of the job stop me from thinking about what could have been.

Thanks Unlock you’re an organisation that really does help people with convictions.

By Reece (name changed to protect identity)


A comment from Unlock

Volunteers are crucial to our helpline and come to us with a passion for Unlock and it’s mission. They give many hours of their time and provide an extraordinary service to our clients. However, volunteering is a two-way street and like Reece, many will benefit from the work they do whilst they’re with us.

If you’d be interested in volunteering for Unlock, take a look at the volunteer page on our main website.

Useful links


Disclosing to an employer – Some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’

Having been through the process of disclosing her conviction to several employers over the years, Stacey provides some tips on what’s worked for her.


My conviction is now quite old and for many years I’ve been working very successfully in spite of it. In fact I’d say my criminal record is most definitely in the past and hasn’t bothered me for many years. However, this hasn’t always been the case and I’ve had my fair share of up’s and down’s when applying for jobs.

However, along the way, I’ve learned a few things about disclosure which I’d like to share. Some of these things may be quite obvious but when you’re going through the process it’s not always easy to see things clearly.

Applying for jobs very soon after you’ve been convicted can be difficult and, as time passes between the past and the present, prospective employers will be able to see that for x number of years you’ve had a clean record.

When to disclose will often be determined by the employer – they could ask on the application form, at interview or once you’ve been offered the job. The best scenario for me was being asked to disclose once I’d been offered a job. At that stage, I was able to get an idea of how approachable my ‘boss’ was going to be and this often helped with the things I included in my disclosure.

I’d always prepare a disclosure statement in advance so I knew exactly what I was going to say; I’d practice it in front of a mirror. I found this made it easier to get my story across without getting distracted or upset and meant that I didn’t go home afterwards wishing I’d said this or that. Other than disclosing the actual conviction, there are a few other things I’d suggest:


  • Blame anyone else for your offence, always take responsibility for your actions
  • Complain about the consequences (for example how harsh you thought your sentence was)
  • Make excuses – there’s a fine line between mitigating factors and trying to condone your behaviour.


  • Point out that you’d never had any dealings with the police before your conviction (assuming you hadn’t) and you have no intention of ever having dealings with them in the future
  • Describe it as a lapse in good judgement (if you can) and if there were extenuating circumstances do explain them, especially if the circumstances are no longer an issue. If they are, explain the actions you’ve taken to deal with them in an appropriate way
  • Be remorseful (about committing the crime – not about getting caught!)
  • Explain it as something that happened but that you have learned from it and are now ready and determined to rebuild your life. Speak positively and confidently.

If you’re finding it hard to get a paid job, you might want to think about doing some voluntary work. Once you’ve got your foot in the door and shown that you’re willing to work for nothing, then many organisations will consider you favourably as and when a paid vacancy becomes available.  It always looks good on your CV and prospective employers admire the fact that you’ve given your services for free.

There are some situations where your criminal conviction will actually be a bonus because you’ll be able to relate to and empathise with certain clients groups. A classic case of turning a negative into a positive.

I hope this helps and for anybody that’s currently looking for a job, I wish you the very best of luck – it will happen.

By Stacey (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have some practical self-help information on disclosing to an employer
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to this issue on our online forum


Volunteering taught me to work for a cause and not for applause

Toby has been volunteering for a couple of homeless charities over the last few years and is really keen to highlight how he’s benefited from volunteering.


Prior to receiving my conviction I had a pretty high profile job which provided me with a fantastic lifestyle and the respect of my family, friends and peers. I worked hard and got great results for my clients and would regularly be ‘slapped on the back’ by colleagues telling me what a great guy I was.

That all changed when I received a conviction for a serious offence and spent time in prison. I lost absolutely everything; family, friends, home, job and respect. I deserved it of course and having nothing allowed me to re-evaluate my life and what was important.

Towards the end of my sentence, I was able to apply for voluntary work and was granted a temporary licence by the prison to go out every day. I volunteered for a charity supporting homeless people and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t get paid a big fat salary but I got so much job satisfaction.

I’ve now left prison and continue to volunteer – a different charity but the same user group. Last week my manager gave me some information about Volunteers Week which celebrates the work done by volunteer’s right across the country. This got me thinking about what volunteering has done for me.

Volunteering offers different people different things but for me it:

  • Makes me feel good – Volunteering makes me happy (there’s academic research to prove it). Giving my time to others gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
  • Has increased my connections – The relationships I’ve developed when volunteering have been endless and these new networks have kept my mental and emotional health in good shape.
  • Has given my life a purpose – People with convictions can feel very isolated but volunteering gave me a reason to get up in the morning.
  • Taught me new skills – Volunteering has given me the opportunity to explore new skills and interests that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to try.

So, if you’ve got a bit of spare time while you’re looking for work and with all the perks that volunteering can offer – there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t give it a shot.

By Toby (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have some practical self-help information on volunteering
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to volunteering on our online forum.

Learning to read in prison has opened so many doors!

Margaret had never told anybody that she couldn’t read or write. However, the need to complete courses as part of her sentence plan made her realise that she needed to get some help to improve her literacy skills. 



I must have been about 6 years old when I started school but I’d left by the time I was 9. I thought it was boring, a waste of time plus I had no friends to play with – as a traveller girl, I found it difficult to make friends outside my own community.

As I only mixed with others from the traveller community, I was brought up learning to fight, drink and bate non-travellers. I started getting into trouble from quite an early age (usually because I was drunk) but only really got a ‘slap on the wrist’ from the local copper but as the fights and drinking escalated so did the punishments. I got a couple of short prison sentences before receiving an IPP sentence (an indeterminate sentence for public protection) in 2006 after being convicted of arson when I accidently set a fence alight.

Not being able to read or write had never really been a problem for me. I’d never told anybody but I just learnt ways of getting by. However, the IPP sentence started to cause me some real problems – I couldn’t complete my menu or canteen sheet but more importantly, I wasn’t able to do the courses that were part of my sentence plan. I could bluff my way through the menu and canteen sheet even though I sometimes ended up eating roast chicken, gravy and salad. But when faced with the probation courses, my aggression just covered up the fact that I couldn’t read.

I was really lucky to have a great Personal Officer who realised that my aggression and bad behaviour was masking something else (I don’t know how) and that if I carried on the way I was going, I was likely to spend years and years in prison. He was the first person I told about my problems with reading and he encouraged me to sign up for the Toe-by-Toe programme run in the prison to help prisoners overcome their reading problems.

I was a bit apprehensive to start with but was put in touch with a really friendly mentor who I met up with on most days. I started to learn how to change letters or words into sounds and in a really short space of time, I was reading ‘easy-reader’ books accurately and confidently. I started to look forward to going to the library each week to pick out a new book.

Admitting that I couldn’t read or write very well meant that I got extra help with my courses and, by the time I sat my Parole Board I’d done everything that was expected of me.

When I left prison I knew I was never going back and although I’m proud of my traveller roots, I wanted to do something different, be somebody different. I found a course at my local college that didn’t have any formal entry requirements and I went along to sign up as a mature student. When the receptionist looked at the blank space under the section which asked about “educational history” she told me that the course would be ‘intensive and advanced’. When I told her that I wasn’t stupid I’d just never been to school, she looked totally horrified.

I loved every minute of my college course but knew that finding a job with my criminal record was going to be the next battle I’d have to overcome. How many companies would want to employ somebody with convictions for violence and arson? Having come so far though, there was no way I was going to give up easily.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do (I’d never actually had a job before prison) but my probation officer suggested that I try doing some voluntary work just to get me used to the routine of working. I searched for opportunities online and before long I came across an organisation that campaigns for the advancement of education among the children of travellers. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

When I heard that I’d been invited to attend an interview, I almost ‘bottled it’ but deep down I knew that I’d never get another opportunity like it. I was shaking when I went into the manager’s office but she immediately put me at ease. I explained about my conviction and how, since I’d stopped drinking and gone to college, I’d put my offending behaviour well and truly behind me. At the end of the interview, I knew it was an organisation I wanted to be part of and I was delighted to be told that as a result of my own experiences and the fact that I’d been so honest and upfront, they wanted me as a volunteer.

I find it sad that I’ve only been able to change my life because I went to prison but, there’s no point living in the past – I’m just looking forward to my future.

By Margaret (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

Employment embargo – Why does the prison think employers are ‘unsuitable’ and refuse to let me work?

Having worked his way through the prison system, Mo is struggling to understand why the prison service continues to refuse him permission to work for certain employers without explaining their reasons why. 


During the time I’ve spent in prison, I’ve had a variety of ‘jobs’ – sorting rubbish, working in the print shop, even packing headphones. The worst part of being in prison is the boredom so being out of your cell and working helps to break up the day.

As I went through the prison system I believed that a move to an open prison would enable me to start doing ‘normal’ things – going home every now and again to see my family and get a job. Having served a long sentence it was important to me that I was able to start reintegrating into society whilst still being ‘protected’ by the prison.

As soon as I moved to open conditions, the prison were really on the ball, sorting out my home leave within a couple of months and setting out opportunities for work. Having been told that I needed to do a certain amount of voluntary work before I was able to apply for paid work, I asked the officer in charge of that department to put my name forward for anything and I was soon volunteering at a local charity shop.

I can’t tell you how amazing it made me feel. It gave me a reason to get up in the morning and really boosted my confidence and self-esteem. My work colleagues were great and had no problem with the fact that I was in prison – a couple of the ‘girls’ (they’re both in their late 70’s) even brought me home made lunches as they were worried that I wasn’t eating properly.

Life was great and I had no reason to believe that the next step into paid work wouldn’t be just as easy. Sadly this was not the case. If you don’t know the system for getting paid work whilst in prison then put simply, once you’ve been offered a job, the prison have to carry out checks to ensure that you’re suitable to be released daily to go to a paid job and that the company you’ll be working for are reputable and suitable. If all’s good, then the prison provide you with a licence which allows you to leave the prison on a temporary basis to go to work.

To date, I’ve been offered three jobs, all working as a junior mechanic in the car trade. Although the prison are happy for me to do this kind of work, every one of the employers has been turned down by the prison as ‘not suitable’. The prison won’t tell me why and more worryingly, they won’t tell the employers either. Without knowing the reasons behind their decision, I’m unable to address any concerns the prison has. The employers just seem to assume that I haven’t been honest with them and believe they’ve had a lucky escape.

Please don’t think I’m the only one that this is happening to – I’m not. Not a day goes by without somebody on my wing moaning about the loss of a job because an employer has been rejected and I find it hard to believe that there’s something wrong with all of them. It’s hard enough finding work with a criminal record and I know that one of the company’s that offered me a job only did so on the basis that they had the security of going back to the prison if I caused them any problems. I wasn’t worried about this as I knew that I’d be able to prove myself to them in the time I had left in prison.

I don’t have a date for release yet but it’s probably at least 18 months away. Going out to work during the time I’ve got left will enable me to save money so I can pay back the friends and family who’ve helped me whilst I’ve been inside. Knowing that on the day I leave prison I’ll have a job to go to is one less thing for me to worry about as I learn to live as a free man again.

I continue to volunteer at the charity shop and try to stay motivated but some days are harder than others. On the days when I’m feeling down and fed up one of my ‘girls’ will bring me a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive – I suppose I’d miss that if I was working in a garage!

By Mo (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have practical self-help on leaving prison
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to working out whilst in prison on our online forum.

A long criminal record doesn’t have to stop you succeeding – My experience of working with young and vulnerable adults

Many people assume that once they’ve got a criminal record, they’ll never be able to work with children or vulnerable adults. As Danny’s story shows, this is not always the case. 



What can I say about my childhood – it wasn’t great to be honest. I was the middle of three kids, all born within 4 years of each other and my mum was a typical wonderfully caring woman whilst my dad was a real disciplinarian (probably due to his having served in the army for many years).

When he left the services my family settled in the South of England and one of my earliest childhood memories was the bitter arguing and fighting between my mum and dad. My dad moved out for a while but came back pretty quickly and the fighting and arguing just continued as before.

I started a fantastic junior school in the 70’s but because I was made to wear jumble sale clothes and my dad shaved my hair into a skinhead cut (just like I was in the army) I was bullied a lot. This wasn’t the worst thing though because at about the same time my dad started abusing myself and my sister. In my case, the abuse carried on for many years, right up until I started secondary school when it stopped suddenly. However, he continued to abuse my sister who told nobody about her experiences.

My father’s abuse affected many parts of my life, not least my education. I was continually disruptive in school but when the head teacher called my parents in, my dad would punish me further by beating me until I was black and blue.

By the time I was 12, I’d started getting into trouble with the police – silly stuff like shoplifting and other petty crimes but eventually I was sent to a detention centre in Kent for 4 months. This is going to sound crazy but I was the happiest I’d ever been. There were no beatings, no abuse, no fights, no arguing.

After years and years of abuse, my sister eventually found the courage to confide in her boyfriend about our father and encouraged by him, she went to the police. My father was arrested, charged and sentenced to many years in prison and we all moved back to the North of England. I continued to get into trouble and served another 4 sentences in detention centres and prison – offending was now part of my life and I couldn’t see any way out of it.

Then I met the person who was to change my life and would become my wife. Having somebody in my life that I loved and who loved me made all the difference and I was determined to change my life for the better. So I started working in a variety of jobs, mostly in factories, until I got a start in retail. I loved the work and within a few years I’d been made a department manager in a large high street store. I got married and my wife gave birth to our beautiful daughter who was (and still is) the apple of my eye. Every decision I made from then on was based on my ability to provide for and spend time with my family. I wanted to make sure their lives were different to mine.

Having started to do OK for myself both personally and professionally, in 2009 I decided to spend some of my spare time volunteering with the Barnardos Heartbeat Project. I was working alongside a guy called Bob delivering sessions to hard to reach young people which looked at the causes of their offending and provided them with strategies they could use to overcome their cycle of offending. I’d been volunteering for about 6 months when I was asked by one of my managers to apply for a paid job with them as a project worker in my local area. To cut a long story short, the interview went well and I was offered the job – what followed was one of the most rewarding times of my entire working life.

Whilst working at Barnardos I gained a number of qualifications including Level 3 NVQ’s in Advice and Guidance and Counselling and a PTTLS teaching qualification. I gained an ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network) delivery qualification and started delivering employability training to young people studying vocational courses at a local college. I still work in the same type of job now but with people with special needs as well as young people. My own experience has shown what you can achieve if somebody believes in you and my job allows me to help others to see a future for themselves. It’s immensely rewarding and I look forward to getting up in the morning and going to work.

My relationship with my mum remains good and in 2012 she nominated me to be an Olympic torchbearer in my local town. An amazing day that I’ll never forget.

I’ve tried hard to understand why my dad did what he did and I’d started to see him on a regular basis. On one of my recent weekly visits, despite ringing the doorbell and hammering on the door for what seemed an age, I couldn’t get any answer from him and, after looking through the keyhole and seeing his keys and phone on the hall table I began to get really worried. I phoned the police who broke into his flat where we found my father dead on the floor.

Finding my dad like that was so hard. There was still so much I wanted to talk to him about and I never got a chance to do that. At his funeral, I talked about forgiveness and how important it is to forgive others because life is too short.

My real message to anybody with a criminal record who feels that society has given up on them is this: Please believe in yourself and let others see how determined you are to succeed. I left school with no qualifications, no prospects and a criminal record as long as your arm. I wanted to work with young people but I was worried about rejection. However, I had nothing to fear – there are organisations that are looking for people just like you who have lived real life experiences and can relate to them.

By Danny (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

We want to make sure that our website is as helpful as possible.

Letting us know if you easily found what you were looking for or not enables us to continue to improve our service for you and others.

Was it easy to find what you were looking for?

Thank you for your feedback.

12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

Help support us now