May 2019Appointing a trustee with a criminal record: reflections of a successful applicant and charity

September 2018Guidance for charities on recruiting trustees and senior managers with criminal records

1st August 2018 – New charity rules that impact on people with convictions come into force today

1st February 2018New guidance and tools published to help charities and individuals deal with changes to charity rules and criminal records

We’re keen to hear from people who will be personally affected by the changes. Take a look at our questions to help understand if you’re affected, and how to get in touch with us.

For more latest news, you can:

  1. see the posts at the bottom of this page
  2. click here for a full list of news posts
  3. sign up our mailing list to receive updates by email
  4. follow the latest on Twitter using the hashtag #trusteeswithconvictions

The problem

The previous Charity Commission rules prevented charities from recruiting suitable individuals as trustees if they had an unspent conviction relating to dishonesty or deception.

The new rules, through the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016, hinder charities (like Unlock) from recruiting individuals who could serve a purposeful role as a trustee or senior manager. This is because the changes:

  • impact on more people with unspent convictions
  • extend the existing trustee disqualification framework to cover people on the sex offenders register (even when the conviction is spent)
  • extend the framework to cover senior staff of charities, including chief executives and finance directors

As a charity that exists to support the efforts of people with convictions in moving on positively with their lives, and as an organisation which itself seeks to recruit trustees and leaders who themselves have convictions, we are concerned about the potential impact of these proposals, as well as being concerned about how the current system operates.

We remain of the view that the extension of the disqualification framework to senior managers (previously just trustees) should be scrapped. We also believe the provisions should only apply while a conviction is unspent. Ultimately, we think that the changes brought in by the 2016 Act are disproportionate and an ineffective way of protecting charities.

From a pragmatic perspective, we’re concerned that the government appear to remain committed to introducing these changes too quickly. We received assurances from government, when the bill was passing through Parliament, that there would be sufficient time ahead of implementation so that the waiver process could be improved and that guidance could be drafted, published and circulated, so that those affected would have an opportunity to take steps to obtain a waiver in advance of the changes coming into force.

What we’re doing

  • We’re continuing to make the case to government that the changes should be scrapped, while at the same time working closely with Clinks and others to ensure that both charities and people with convictions are aware of what’s on the horizon, so that they can make sure they’re prepared if they do come into force.
  • We are working with the Charity Commission on their review of the waiver process.
  • We are working to ensure that the processes of the Charity Commission operate in a way which allows charities the freedom to recruit people as trustees who have unspent convictions, where the charity believes that the individual can fulfil their obligations as a trustee and the charity can show it has taken reasonable steps to protect the interests of the charity.

What we’ve done

  • We responded to the Government’s consultation in February 2014 setting out our proposals. Read them here.
  • We gave evidence to the Joint Committee in December 2014.
  • We produced a briefing on the Bill in November 2015 (which had widespread support from other charities) after further measures were introduced to make things worse. We’ve lobbied for amendments to the Bill, which received Royal Assent in March 2016.
  • We submitted written evidence to the Public Bill Committee in December 2015.
  • We worked with our patron, Edward Garnier, on the debate that took place in January 2016, where we sought a number of concessions
  • We responded to the consultation in 2016 on the power to disqualify from acting as a trustee
  • We produced a briefing with Clinks for stakeholders, explaining the main changes and issues affecting people with convictions and charities.
  • We pushed for delays to the implementation timetable.
  • We worked with the Cabinet Office and the Charity Commission before the changes to the law were implemented in 2018.
  • We published guidance for both charities and individuals on the changes to the rules

Have you applied for a waiver from the Charity Commission?

We are collecting on how effective the ‘waiver’ process is, which the Charity Commission operates. As a result, we are keen to hear from those those have applied for a waiver from the Charity Commission to act as a trustee because of their criminal record.

We are actively looking for cases where people with convictions have been successful, but we’re just as interested in those cases that have not been successful.

You can get send your details to Any personal details that you send us will be entirely confidential and will not be shared outside of Unlock without your express permission. For more details on sending your details to us, click here.

Case studies

Appointing a trustee with a criminal record: reflections of a successful applicant and charity

Latest news

The latest on this issue can be found at the top of this page.

Useful links, resources and publications

Briefing – Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 – Main changes and issues affecting people with convictions (with Clinks, November 2016)

Response to Charity Commission consultation on power to disqualify from acting as a trustee (August 2016)

Written submission to the Public Bill Committee (December 2015)

Ex-offenders, charity trustees & managers: Briefing – Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill 2015-16 (November 2015)

Written evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft Protection of Charities Bill – People with convictions as trustees (December 2014)

Submission to the Charity Commission- People with convictions as trustees (February 2014)

For more information

  1. Practical self-help information  – We have guidance on becoming a trustee on our information site. We have also developed guidance for charities, which is available on our website for employers.
  2. Personal experiences – We have posts relating to being a trustee and running a charity on our online magazine, theRecord
  3. Discuss this issue – Share your views and experiences on our online forum

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