On this page:

Also see our case studies and success stories and our awards.

Achievements in 2016

Overall, it’s yet again been an incredibly busy year for Unlock with lots of positive news and progress to report. We’ve had an addition to the staff team. We’ve also continued to expand the information, advice and support we provide to help people overcome the stigma of their convictions:

  • We have continued to see an increase in the numbers of people accessing our helpline and websites. Building on last years’ unprecedented rise, our helpline will have dealt with over 5,000 enquiries.
  • The number of visitors to our information site has also continued to grow, with over one million visits (yes, MILLION!) accessing the site in 2016.
  • Our disclosure calculator will have helped over 50,000 people work out when their convictions become spent.

We’ve also strengthened our advocacy role by challenging discriminatory practices, encouraging employers and influencing government policy.


In January, the High Court ruled the criminal record disclosure scheme unlawful in a case that Unlock supported

In February, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, committed the civil service to banning the box about criminal records from their application forms

In March, our co-director, Christopher Stacey, won the High Sheriff award. We also published the first ever independent evaluation of our helpline

In April, we supported the launch of research and a campaign to reform the disclosure of childhood criminal records. Our criminal record disclosure training was also endorsed by the Probation Institute.

In May, we submitted a response to Charlie Taylor’s review of youth justice and submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Inquiry into “support for ex-offenders”

In June, we collected case studies of people affected by childcare disqualification by association regulations, and then worked on our response to the government consultation where we called for the regulations to be scrapped

In July, we published a number of case studies of bad practices by employers that we’d successfully challenged

In August, we launched an updated version of our online forum for people with convictions

In September, we launched a new website to help employers to recruit people with criminal records

In October, after joint efforts by Unlock and the Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ), the Justice Committee announced an inquiry into youth criminal records

November was a big month for awards. We won the coveted Longford Prize, our helpline won two national awards, and our co-director was highly commended in the Social CEOs awards.

Also in November, we announced our new Chair of Trustees and we successfully lobbied for a delay to implementation of the Charities Act

In December, we welcomed Nick Hardwick as a Patron and Charlie Taylor’s review into youth justice was published, with recommendations made on childhood criminal records. Our evidence to the Justice Committee’s inquiry into youth criminal records was published and we took a small group of people with convictions to a private session with the Committee so they could hear first-hand experiences of the obstacles people have faced.


Achievements in 2015

Overall, we continued to see an unprecedented increase in the numbers of people accessing our helpline and websites.

  • Building on last years’ unprecedented rise, our helpline has given advice to over 5,500 in 2015, a 10% increase on last year.
  • The number of visitors to our information site also continued to grow over the year, with over 500,000 (yes, over half a million!) accessing the self-help site in the first 9 months of this year alone!
  • Our disclosure calculator has helped over 40,000 people work out when their convictions become spent.
  • We are incredibly grateful to all of the fantastic volunteers that helped us cope with this huge demand!
  • In October, we published some examples of people we had helped, and we gradually built up a bank of stories over the year which we published anonymously on our website.


  • In February, we were delighted to report that our Co-Director, Julie Harmsworth, was announced as the winner of the ‘Social Justice Campaigner’ award at the SMK Campaigner Awards.
  • In April, we were delighted to report that we had been awarded a three-year grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation that will enable us to deliver a programme of work that will challenge the discrimination faced by people with convictions in getting employment. Our Co-Director, Christopher Stacey, also published his Winston Churchill Fellowship Report on changing the way people with convictions are viewed by the law.
  • In May, the Government announced the abolition of paper driving counterparts, which went some way towards helping people with spent motoring convictions who struggle as a result of their spent convictions remaining on their paper licence.
  • In June, we started work on giving our forum an update by putting out a survey on what an updated forum would look like. We hope to have a test version of the updated forum in early 2016.
  • In July, we announced details of a new a two-day training course, ‘Supporting with Conviction’, designed specifically for probation providers, staff in Community Rehabilitation Companies, and specialists helping people with convictions to get into employment. Our Co-Director, Christopher Stacey, also published part 1 of a blog with Clinks about the ‘non-contracted’ voluntary sector and probation services.
  • In October, the Association of British Insurers produced guidance for insurers on (not) using enforced subject access to get details of criminal records.
  • In November, we marked our 15th anniversary as a charity by having a reception hosted by our President, Lord Ramsbotham, in the stunning House of Lords River Room.
  • In December, we supported a legal challenge in the High Court to the criminal records disclosure scheme, focusing on the failings of the DBS filtering system and the limit on one conviction.

Achievements in 2014

  • We saw an unprecedented increase in numbers of people accessing our direct and online practical support. For the first time ever, our helpline gave advice to more than 5,000 people over the year. The number of visitors to our new information site also continued to grow over the year, with a 57% increase of unique users in November compared with January, and a 90% increase in daily visitors on the 10th March alone (the day the changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 came into force).
  • In January, for the first time in 14 years, we moved offices to Maidstone Community Support Centre.
  • We gathered views from a range of individuals and organisations to respond to the Governments consultation of changes to regulation of trustees of charities. Our focus was the impact on people with convictions.
  • For the first time in 40 years, after many years of campaigning and lobbying by Unlock, changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 came into force on the 10th March, significantly reducing the number of people with unspent convictions. We appeared on BBC Breakfast on the day the changes come into force. We produced posters and leaflets, as well as online information. We also updated our Disclosure Calculator and delivered awareness-raising sessions for practitioners.
  • In April, we came to the end of a 9-year project in setting up access to basic bank accounts for people near to release from prison. In the last year alone nearly 6,000 people opened an account, and we published a report with a number of recommendations on how to make sure this work continues.
  • In June, the Supreme Court rejected the Governments appeal on the disclosure of old/minor criminal records, which originated from a case brought by a team of solicitors that Unlock had supported to ensure they could defend the Governments appeal. This success meant that the DBS filtering regime remained in force.
  • After a complaint by Unlock to the Information Commissioners Office, the Disclosure and Barring Service finally updated their application form in March, and in July, after a further complaint by Unlock, they required employers and others to use the new application forms which had the correct question regarding cautions/convictions.
  • A film about disclosing convictions was published in September. It was developed by Staffordshire & West Midlands Probation Trust, and we helped with the developed of this and are mentioned at the end as a source of good advice.

Past achievements

“I am tired of running away from my past. Unlock has been a critical first step in this process. It has provided me with clear, unambiguous guidance. As far as I am aware it is the only body/charity/website that offers the type of detail that is necessary for me to go forward.” Person with convictions


  • Developed an online community through which people with convictions are supporting each other
  • Turned the complex legislation into a simple online tool that enables people with convictions to benefit from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

“I would like to congratulate Unlock on achieving what some previously considered impossible. I hope that the hard work of Unlock will continue and that through that work, together we can remove some of the unnecessary obstacles faced by offenders who want to lead normal, law abiding lives”. Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice


“Thank you for all the help you have provided me to advance my Private Members Bill. The Government has accepted a good many recommendations contained in my Bill. I want you to know how much I appreciated your contribution”. The Rt Hon The Lord Dholakia


  • Established access to insurance for people with convictions and their families by developing a panel of specialist brokers, resulting in thousands of people gaining or retaining stable accommodation
  • Established pre-release access to bank accounts in over 90% of prisons (securing the support of the major high-street banks, HM Treasury and the Ministry of Justice) enabling thousands of prisoners to open bank accounts before release every year
  • Co-founded the WipeTheSlateClean campaign (a criminal record should not be a life sentence)

The difference we make

Analysis of our beneficiary feedback on the long term impacts of our support shows people to have improved resettlement chances, suffer less social exclusion, and be empowered to achieve their potential. This all contribute to reduce re-offending by increasing the number of people who successful negotiate the on-going, changing and increasingly complex challenges which can derail the most positive of intentions. Ultimately, it means that people can move on positively with their lives.


Don’t take our word for it;

“When I first got in touch with Unlock I was very low, but they gave me the emotional support and encouragement I needed. I had felt very isolated but knowing that someone else was there who knew what I was going through kept me going. I don’t know if I’d be here today if it wasn’t for Unlock”

“This is a wonderful site with amazing advice! I just wish I had found it earlier, it would have saved me so much pain and tears.”

“I wrote to your organisation for advice on my own further educational development. This I must say was extremely beneficial, and helped cement my own passion and desire to prevent, if only one, from falling into a similar pattern of the revolving door. I have now been substance free for over 8 years.”

“The new DBS site leaves a lot to be desired in terms of info. Yours is much clearer and more helpful”

“I could not believe it when I found your website this evening. I am nearly in tears… I feel absolutely fantastic, more than that, it’s like being reborn”


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