Tag Archives: ex-offender

Reform The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in Scotland

The name of the 1974 Act as it stands is an oxymoron in that it neither supports “offenders” nor “rehabilitation”. The extreme length of time before convictions become spent mean that no fair minded person could reasonably describe somebody with a spent conviction as an “offender”.

The 1974 Act currently provides no incentive for rehabilitation because convictions become spent automatically, regardless of an individual’s effort to change their lifestyle more quickly.

By excluding prison sentences of over 30 months, the 1974 Act also fails to recognise the human capacity for reform.

The inflexible “rehabilitation periods” which would be better described as “disclosure periods” are defined only by the court disposal. While the refinements laid out in LASPO 2012 by Westminster are an improvement, they miss the opportunity to provide incentives for reform, rehabilitation and compliance.

LASPO 2012 should be implemented for retrospective offences in Scotland, however the disposal is a very blunt instrument for defining “disclosure periods”.

“Disclosure periods” should be defined the time of sentencing by using LASPO as a guide and adding conditions for completing orders, paying fines and engaging in rehabilitation activities. Additionally a large number of “one-off” summary offences which have no employment relevance should become immediately spent on the proviso that they are a “one-off”. They should also be filtered from any disclosure for positions covered by the 2013 Order.

Similarly for prison sentences where longer “disclosure periods” are defined, the requirement to disclose should be linked with behavioural compliance in prison and be subject to appeal.

The 1974 Act has not accounted for changes in labour demand, recruitment methods, sentence inflation and increased availability of information about criminal histories during the 40 years since inception. While significant improvements have been made to legislation to protect vulnerable groups, the impact of having a conviction labelled as “racially aggravated”, “indecent”, “sexual” or “fire-raising”, exponentially diminish employment opportunities when compared against other convictions with similar disposals or similar risks to an employer.

The decline of manufacturing sectors with unionised protection has changed workplace dynamics and the modern employment landscape dominated by the service sector, has made recruiters more precious about brand. This in turn increases “conviction stereotype anxiety” among recruiters who are typically not trained, empowered or authorised to “recruit with conviction”.

Although Recruit With Conviction promotes honest disclosure processes, the availability of information legislated in the Police Act 1997 and PVG compounds the problem on a practical level. In particular Disclosure Scotland certificates give no contextual information and employers are left to decipher offences and disposals to corroborate a personal letter of disclosure from the individual. This is a burden for employers. Availability of information on the internet has also impacted negatively.

People with convictions have traditionally down-traded their skills and undertaken voluntary work in order to secure employment but current high unemployment has increased competition for such work. The requirement to disclose convictions creates an inequality of opportunity for local people seeking local jobs when competing with economic migrants for whom criminal record histories are less readily available. In contrast, the opportunity for Scots with convictions to escape their past by relocating to London or elsewhere in the UK has been hindered by the Police Act 1997 and the Internet.

Only a small minority of those labelled as “offenders” by the 1974 Act have served a custodial sentence, however parallel statistics from England and Wales (through a MoJ and DWP data linkage project in 2011) show that while 13% of prisoners were in P45 employment in the month before prison, only 5% were in P45 employment in the month after prison. Other evidence shows that most former prisoners, who find work, return to their previous employers. Those who are successful in finding employment, achieve this through their own networks of friends and family, rather than applying for them on the open job market.

The difficulty of finding work in the regular economy underpins labour supply in the illegal labour market which propagates organised crime and abuse by unscrupulous employers such as paying under minimum wage, non-compliance with other employment rights as well as the obvious tax evasion it supports.

Given that approximately 11,000 people were liberated by SPS last year, and that the DWP’s flagship universal work programme has sustained only 80 former prisoners into employment in Scotland (Work programme cumulative job outcomes in Scotland to September 2013), it is a minor miracle that a third of prisoners manage to avoid returning to custody in the 2 years after release, rather than a surprise that 2 thirds of them will return to prison.

The well documented “licence to lie” which the 1974 Act authorises, is absurd. It fails to recognise a job applicant wishing to be truthful and an employer seeking honesty. So the protection should include the way in which a question can be reasonably asked. For example “Do you have any unspent criminal convictions?” can be answered more in good faith while “Do you have a criminal record?” creates a potential obstacle the relationship between prospective employee and employer. Many people who have committed crime in their past, move forward by building trust with absolute integrity and truth. If the question is asked in the wrong way, then they can feel pressured to over disclose.

Over disclosure also occurs when information is not available to the individual or employer.

For the new Act to support access to employment opportunities for people with convictions, it needs to be considered and properly integrated into wider employment legislation and good recruitment practice. Recruit With Conviction is partnering a number of UK organisations to implement “Ban the Box” as policy among private sector employers as a code of practice.

“Ban the box” has been legislated for public sector employers in the USA using slightly different variants in different states. By delaying conviction disclosure to later in the recruitment process more people with convictions will get interview practice, more will get the opportunity to explain their convictions in person and ultimately more will get jobs and keep them. “Ban the Box” also removes the poor practice of pre-selection screening where individuals can be deselected automatically on the grounds of unspent convictions, regardless of their irrelevance to the post and before they can outline their employment attributes.

In Scotland, some public sector employers are currently the trailblazers in good practice with some notable exceptions and in many cases policy and practice are poles apart.

The privilege of exemption from the 1974 Act and outlined in the 2013 Order needs further exploration. It is clear that for the vast majority of people with summary convictions, that these offences are no proxy for future risk and disclosure of such convictions is an unnecessary burden and embarrassment for too many individuals.

It is particularly disappointing that employers in justice agencies such as the Scottish Police Service, Scottish Prison Service and Scottish Court Service appear to have a tendency to almost apply blanket bans (if anecdotal information is accurate). This would be an abuse of their privilege to be exempt from the 1974 Act – although not illegal. Justice agencies should be leaders of good practice because they understand risk, would benefit from the resulting improvement in diversity and could become credible ambassadors for the recruit with conviction concept among other employers.

Failure to “recruit with conviction” is a failure to recruit effectively. Like any cohort of people who are marginalised by a label, “people with convictions” are more likely to need additional support in getting employment but also as a cohort they are more likely to include untapped potential as an opportunity for the employer. For the sake of efficiency and diversity in the public sector, the “recruit with conviction” process should be legislated and encouraged throughout the public sector supply chain as a mandatory community benefit clause element.

Other obstructions to “recruiting with conviction” come from sloppy interpretation of guidance from the Financial Services Authority which invokes regulatory recruitment rules on the Finance Sector, CPNI regulations for recruitment in airports, utilities etc. and HMG Baseline Personnel Security Standards which enforce formal vetting processes for reserved civil service appointments and subcontractors in Scotland. Often these vetting processes are not backed up with credible HR strategies and individuals have been denied employment on the grounds on minor and irrelevant summary convictions. Guidance from FSA, CPNI and HMG Baseline Personnel Security Standards do not enforce blanket bans on people with unspent convictions; however there is a tendency for them to be interpreted very conservatively.

By contrast, the guidance for PVG is relatively clear although time periods for clearance and appeal can be excessive for some individuals. In caring and healthcare settings in Scotland, there has been an improvement in realistic assessment on the relevance of criminal records.

Significant reform is required and legislation is only one of the tools to achieve this. While the Recruit With Conviction campaign has been effective in promoting good recruitment and employability practice, the organisation is a social enterprise which is funded through the sale of workshops and has limited resources.

Employability services are also part of this required reform as standards are inconsistent. Too commonly minimum standards of guidance for criminal record relevance are not met and too often individuals start a course of training or study for work which is incompatible with their criminal record or their willingness to disclose it when spent. Advice to over-disclose spent convictions and advice to disclose non-conviction information occurs needlessly. This is partly due to the complexity of the legislation as well as training needs.

Beyond this, specialist employability services for people with more complex offending histories have become marginalised by commissioning which is reliant on bean counting outcomes rather than promoting assets based approaches to quality support. While the right job for the right person at the right employer at the right time is life changing – the wrong job is a bad outcome.

Cons to Cobblers

James Timpson, CEO of Timpsons is a distinguished speaker on business leadership, so we are delighted that our colleagues at Howard League Scotland have organised a lecture on Tuesday 28th January in Edinburgh.

“Cons to Cobblers” promises to give a unique insight into the employment of people from prison and importantly keeps the conversation alive for businesses to Recruit With Conviction.

Please help to promote this event and bring some sceptics with you too.

For details see the link.



Recruit With Conviction Highlights – 2013

The Recruit With Conviction team had a fantastic year in 2013 and we want to share a few of the highlights with you. Here are our top 10.

Thanks to all of our amazing advisers, partners and businesses for making all this possible:

1. Recruit With Conviction engaged hundreds of employers to promote safe, fair and effective recruitment of people with criminal records.

2. Right Honourable Kenny McAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice in
Scotland launched Recruit With Conviction employer discussion events on
changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

3. We supported the development of Ban the Box in London in partnership with Business in the Community, UNLOCK, Howard League, Criminal Justice Alliance and Barrow Cadbury Trust.

4. We delivered a full programme of Apply With Conviction workshops in the North West of England to Job Centre Plus advisers, substance abuse specialists and work programme advisers to help improve services for people with convictions.

5. We reinvested over 2000 consultant hours pro-bono for the development of our wider social aims.

6. We facilitated successful employer events in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Irvine and Inverness.

7. We visited Potenza in Italy for the start of a new transnational European
programme with Italian and Romanian partners. This will focus on education towards employment.

8. We developed strategic partnerships with No-Offence CIC, Apex, Scottish Business in the Community and Scottish Family Business Association. We have also developed many other relationships with other great organisations.

9. We secured positive media coverage for our campaign including BBC TV news and national newspapers

10.  We made a crucial contribution to diversity, improved recruitment practice and the reduction of re-offending.

A clarion call for employment of ex-offenders


“In the face of rising unemployment, St Giles Trust Chief Executive Rob Owen sets out why companies should not disregard people with a criminal record.

WITH my former career in the City, I’ve always been hammering on about how corporates should support our work.  Recently, we’ve been lucky to benefit from the support of two very prestigious companies – investment firm Liberum through their newly established charitable trust and global accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers”…………..

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Hiring ex-offenders and homeless morally right, says M&S


English: Logo of Marks & Spencer
Image via Wikipedia


It also makes good business sense!!!

“Hiring people from disadvantaged groups is not only “ethically right” but benefits business performance, according to the HR director of Marks and Spencer.Speaking at the Talent Pipeline Conference , organised by the Employers Forum on Age and Employers Forum on Belief, Tanith Dodge outlined how the retailer encouraged a workforce diverse in age, and was working with the third sector to deliver development programmes for ex-offenders, homeless people and school leavers. ”

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Negativity remains toward ex-offenders



“The performance of ex-offenders contravenes perception among employers which have no experience working with them. Research by Working Links found 77% of resourcing professionals that had not hired ex-offenders thought that these candidates would be less or much less honest, and 42% thought that they would be less conscientious. However, only 7% of employers who have hired ex-offenders said they had a negative experience.”…

Ex-offenders’ bosses feel their work is legit


A third of employers have taken on an ex-offender in their company, with over half rating their experiences as positive, according to a survey from the consultancy CfBT Education Trust.”…


Consistent with what we know. There is a great underused pool of talent.

Employing more ex-offenders – Richard’s Blog – Virgin.com

Employing more ex-offenders – Richard’s Blog – Virgin.com.

“I would like to encourage more companies to proactively recruit ex-offenders. Our experience of this within Virgin has been wholly positive – particularly when working with organisations such as Working Chance, who offer restorative recruitment for women offenders.

I believe our society should do more to support positive initiatives to encourage the rehabilitation of prisoners. We should create more chances for people who have been in jail to make a positive contribution to the workforce.

In Australia, Toll, the transport and logistics group – working with WISE Employment – makes a point of doing exactly this and has employed a number of former prisoners. In the UK, Timpson, the key cutting and shoe repair business, has created a successful programme too.

If many more companies could follow their example then many more ex-offenders would be able to find a purpose in life, worthwhile employment – and everyone would benefit.

Research has shown that most ex-offenders are more committed and willing to do more than just the job. They are grateful for the opportunity to do something worthwhile rather than falling back on their former ways and circumstances.

People often start offending because of an unfortunate upbringing or bad circumstances within their families. Maybe a good employer and the positive influence of work colleagues can, in part, be a replacement for a dysfunctional family.”

Small businesses: Building community through hiring – CSMonitor.com

Small businesses: Building community through hiring – CSMonitor.com.

…”Which Wich (a sandwich shop franchise) has found the employees re-entering society to be hard-working, determined and bringing a positive attitude to the other employees and customers,” said Tracie Maybaum, a Which Wich general manager. “One of the most beneficial assets they bring to work is their attitude. Theirs positivity influences other employees, and their gratitude is motivating.”…..