Today the Government announced changes in its freedom bill which give ex-offenders a fairer chance of finding work, marking another victory for our Change the Record Campaign.
The proposals means that another barrier preventing ex-offenders finding work will be removed when the bill is passed.
The Protection of Freedoms Bill provides protection for children and vulnerable adults, but proposes scaling down the use of checks, merging the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority, sending CRB certificates to individuals rather than employers and removing old and minor offences from the checks.
The announcement follows two other major successes of the campaign:
- The Government announcement of a consultation on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) announced in the Green paper, Breaking the Cycle.
- A commitment to reforming the Act from Justice Minister Lord McNally following the Nacro supported debate in the House of Lords led by our President, Lord Dholakia.
Nacro’s Chief Executive, Paul McDowell said: “Nacro’s Change the Record campaign has been calling for these reforms and we wholeheartedly welcome today’s announcement.
“At Nacro we work with children and vulnerable adults in over 300 projects in England and Wales and their safety and wellbeing is paramount.
“Nacro is a crime prevention charity. Employment is one of the most important factors in preventing reoffending and the disproportionate level of criminal record checks is a serious barrier to getting a job. People are left discriminated against, humiliated and excluded from work when all they want to do is find tangible ways of moving on with their lives and making a positive contribution to society.
“These reforms will kick start the removal of barriers - personal, social and systemic – which prevent people moving on from their past offences.
“This will help give employers access to talented applicants; it will give offenders the chance to move away from crime and contribute to their community. These reforms are an essential part of the Government’s rehabilitation revolution and efforts to foster a more positive environment for ex-offenders seeking work.
“We need to redress the balance to help people back to work while ensuring that children and vulnerable adults are safe. We also need programmes to help employers implement the legislation and procedures so that they can also benefit from people who genuinely want to put their past behind them.”
In summary the Bill proposes:
- Bringing the CRB and ISA into one organisation. This will allow the two bodies to be better integrated and improve communication. For example, recently we had a call where someone had been taken off the barred list, but this hadn’t been recognised on an enhanced CRB check.
- The reduction in the number of posts which are entitled to be checked.
- The single disclosure certificate which means certificates will be sent to the individual only, rather than to the employer as well. This will allow people to check for accuracy and prepare how they present details to an employer ahead of an interview.
- The exclusion of very old offences from the records police pass to the CRB. We know from calls to the helpline that even after 20 years, minor sentences and cautions can prevent people getting the work they’re otherwise qualified to do.
However, Nacro has concerns about a recommendation to introduce Basic Conviction Certificates which would allow employers to check on all unspent convictions, a move we oppose as it could escalate the levels of CRB checks. It would also make the consultation on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act – which we hope will reduce the time it takes for offences to become spent - all the more important.
The next steps for Nacro include looking at how best to support employers on this legislation and guidance.
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