Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in March 2014 for England & Wales have made a critical contribution to the latest fall in UK unemployment. We cannot quantify this without further robust research but here are a few interesting facts to consider:
- 4.3 million people with convictions in England & Wales represented 28% of all people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in the UK according to the MOJ data joining report published in January 2014 (1)
- The 1974 Act improvements in March 2014, have removed the requirement to disclose convictions for the purposes of most employment – for potentially about 1.8 million people according to research from UNLOCK. (2)
- The unemployment drop is strangely paralleled with a drop in wages – a fact which defies Labour Market logic
- The labour market recovery in the rest of the UK has caught up with the labour market recovery in Scotland – both now sit at 6.4 % but Scottish changes to the 1974 Act are still under review. (3)
While there are many more factors which impact labour markets such as sanctions and conditionality to benefits and wider economic growth, the drop in unemployment is a success and the 1974 Act changes will have contributed.
The 1974 Act changes should now lay a pathway for other difficult political justice decisions which are sensible but counter the populist prattle of Mail, Express et. al. For example,
- Delivering on promises to reduce short term prison disposals
- Implementing radical reforms to the 1974 Act in Scotland more hastily and making further improvements to the act in England and Wales. See UNLOCK’s proposals (4)
- Properly funding community justice
- Making prison less harmful to vulnerable prisoners
- Providing throughcare services which best support recovery from incarceration
- Supporting services like Recruit with Conviction to help change recruitment cultures to open up job markets for people with convictions and engage community conversations about criminal justice which are better informed than frighten, flog and f*** the consequences.
Of course some of this is already being achieved but the successful results of changing the 1974 Act, gives a strong mandate for even more common sense!