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in Nacro news

  • 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record (over 20 per cent of the working population)
  • Around half of the 1.5 million criminal convictions each year are for motoring offences
  • 70% of all convictions result in fines
  • Reoffending costs the UK £13 billion a year

 The Aeneid Project, which kicked off this month with an employer-led event in Luton, aims to provide local employers and other organisations with the confidence and tools to access a vast, largely untapped talent pool of people struggling to find a job due to employers’ blanket ex-offender exclusion policies. A key part of the project involves Nacro’s dedicated Employer Advice Service providing free expert advice and support to employers large and small.

Jonathan Aitken, Nacro Trustee and former Cabinet Minister, explains:

“Up to 800,000 criminal convictions each year are for motoring offences and nearly 70 per cent of all sentences end up with just a fine. Yet, three in four (75%) employers will simply use the declaration of a criminal record to discriminate against an applicant due to exaggerated fears and concerns about employing people with offending histories.

“Preventing otherwise suitably skilled, qualified, experienced and motivated applicants from a fair opportunity to compete and secure jobs leaves many in a position where they are unable to provide for their families, pay their taxes and ultimately confined to a life on benefits: essentially a burden to the taxpayer. This can also lead to them experiencing other problems in their lives which create huge social and economic costs.”

Jacob Tas, Chief Executive at Nacro adds:

“Since we opened our doors almost 50 years ago, we have helped many thousands of individuals, who have made mistakes, to move forward in a positive and constructive way.

“We are proud of our work, supporting organisations to employ talented, dedicated people that make a positive contribution to their business and help navigate complex disclosure legislation that affects all sectors.

“The Aeneid Project is part of a wider campaign, launched earlier in the year, to encourage and support employers to recruit safely and fairly. The aim is to help break down barriers, eradicate some of the myths about employing people with a criminal record and help employers find the right person for the right job.”

Dianah Worman OBE, Public Policy Advisor for Diversity at the CIPD, said: 

“Many employers tend to be cautious about offering work to someone with a criminal record and some even operate blanket exclusion policies when recruiting. This approach is flawed. It is important that talented people have equal access to employment opportunities, regardless of their background. In order to achieve this, we must help employers understand their legal obligations so they can gain skilled and valuable employees.

“Our research shows how, contrary to common perceptions, in reality many employers’ experiences of employing ex-offenders have been positive. Retention rates are high and many ex-offenders are valuable and reliable employees.

“This event marks the first step in working with employers at a local level that will eventually lead to stronger communities and a robust, diverse workforce.”

To find out more about the project visit the Nacro website at: www.nacro.org.uk/aeneid-project

In addition, Nacro has also set up a dedicated Employer Advice Line to provide organisations with a free operational advice and ongoing support service, specifically aimed at helping employers avoid potential pitfalls surrounding this issue. Call

Nacro’s Employment Advice Line on: 0845 600 3194 or email: employeradvice@nacro.org.uk

 

Here are some of the people that Nacro has helped:

Case study 1 (employee)

Mick had been working for a healthcare company as a technician for eight months. His job was to set up medical equipment for individuals in their homes, but not to provide any health or medical care to the individuals concerned. When he first applied for the role he was asked to declare any ‘unspent’ convictions. Mick answered the questions in line with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) and ticked ‘no’ to having any unspent convictions. However, when his DBS certificate came back, his employer dismissed him from the role for failing to disclose his convictions and for an ‘unsatisfactory’ DBS certificate.

When Mick phoned Nacro’s Resettlement Advice Service (RAS) helpline he was very distressed and was seeking advice and information on his employment rights.

The RAS team were able to advise him that, although he did not have any employment rights because he had not worked for the organisation for two years, his employer had carried out an unlawful criminal check for the role that was covered by the ROA. And that, although the role involved setting up healthcare equipment for individuals in their homes, there was always a family member or carer present and he was therefore never left unsupervised.

In addition, because Mick had answered the questions about the criminal record declarations correctly and did not fail to disclose his convictions, he had the right to appeal to his employer against the decision for being dismissed.

Having tried several times to communicate with his employers, Mick was left frustrated as they would not let him appeal the decision. He was informed by his employer that he was not contractually or legally entitled to an appeal process and that he did not have any employment rights to challenge the decision.

One of Nacro’s legal officers wrote to the employer outlining how they would be representing Mick, how it was unlawful to take into consideration a spent conviction for a role that is not exempt from ROA, and requested an appeal on behalf of Mick.

After a lengthy discussion over the phone which looked at the concerns the employer had, together with the risk assessment they had carried out, Mick was given his job back and even got some backdated pay for the time he spent unemployed.

 Case study 2 (student)

Jade applied for an MSc Occupational Therapy course at a south-east university, but her application was withdrawn because of the ‘information provided in her declaration’.

Between the ages of 14 and 18 years, Jade was convicted on four occasions of offences including public disorder and low-level assault. It had been seven years since Jade’s last conviction and her circumstances had considerably changed from when she was a young person.

After contacting the Nacro RAS team she was advised that, although she has a criminal record this would not necessarily prevent her from practising as an Occupational Therapist or registering with the Health and Care Professions Council. The RAS team advised her to contact the university to get a written explanation as to why her application had been withdrawn.

The RAS team reviewed the information and the declaration Jade had sent in with her application and concluded that the reason she had been denied a place on the course was because she had not conveyed her attitudes in a positive way that demonstrated she had taken responsibility for the offences. In addition, she had failed to address any concerns the university had about her criminal record.

With the help of the RAS team, Jade made an appeal. In her appeal she provided additional information regarding her criminal record, her attitude towards her offences and how her circumstances had changed. She also highlighted how, after reviewing the Health Care Professionals Councils guidance on good character and conduct, she felt she met the conditions excepted to become a registered health care professional.

To support Jade’s appeal, a member of the RAS team provided a supporting statement outlining her circumstances and attitude towards her offending and how difficult it is to disclose negative experiences in a positive way in writing. The statement also highlighted how young Jade was at the time of the offences, how she has since worked with vulnerable groups without any concerns regarding her conduct or attitude, and how she has since moved on from her offending past.

As a result, the university’s Panel decided to allow Jade to proceed with her application on the MSc Occupational Therapy programme.