Third of Unemployed People have criminal records

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There has never been a better time to recruit with conviction

There are a number of articles in the press today about the Ministry of Justice statistical bulletin which states that a third of benefit claimants have a criminal conviction in the last 10 years.

I don’t think that this statistic will surprise anyone working in the justice system but I do remember being chastised for taking a guess at this statistic a few years ago. At the time I suggested this very headline!

While it does create some very negative stereotyping of people on benefits, these statistics are a set of tools for policy-makers to address the difficulties that ex-offenders face in gaining honest employment.

Honest employment is the single most important factor in determining whether or not people re-offend. So while I am uncomfortable about the abuse of this statistic in stigmatising benefit claimants, I do welcome it.

The elephant is now well and truly in the room and there is now no excuse for not dealing with it.

Specific and specialist employability support must be available to deal with the barriers that a criminal record presents. But this support needs to be available for both employers and prospective employees. This approach was pioneered by Apex Scotland in 1998 in a project called Apex Scotland Employer Recruitment Training when over 1000 recruitment professionals in all sectors were trained to deal with criminal record disclosure.

There will also be calls for a re-assessment of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 which is long overdue. I’d suggest that part of the problem is the very title of the legislation because many employers falsely interpret “rehabilitation periods” as a minimum amount of time it takes before they can safely employ an individual rather than the point at which discrimination against the individual become illegal. Lets be honest and call it the Ex-Offender Equality Act 2012.

Beyond the problem with the title of the legislation, the periods of time before a conviction becomes spent are lengthy and often demoralising for job seekers who have otherwise turned their lives around.

Here’s some other stats from the report:

1 in 6 prison leavers were in p45 employment 2 years after being liberated.

1 in 3 people convicted of drugs offences were in p45 employment 1 month before their conviction.

4 in 10 people convicted of fraud or forgery were in p45 employment 1 month before their conviction.

While many people will be baulking at these statistics and the freedom they give to create negative headlines, I’m happy that we now have sound evidence to challenge policy makers and employers to do the right things for ex-offenders, and to support this untapped potential to realise their true potential and contribute to society in ways that they frequently really want to.

Employers can also benefit from new hard working and loyal additions to their workforce as well as contributing to wider social benefits if they overcome negative stereotypes in recruitment.

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