Case study – Helping a housing provider make sure they don’t consider spent convictions

A few years ago a member of staff of a housing provider who had attended one of our training courses forwarded us a copy of their organisation’s housing allocations policy and application forms. As a result of the training they’d received, they were concerned that their documentation may not be compliant with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) and asked us to review and make any recommendations we felt necessary.

We noted the following:

  1. Neither the application/allocation policy nor the application form made any reference to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the fact that spent convictions should not be disclosed by an applicant or taken into account when considering an applicant for housing.
  2. The question on the accommodation application form asked: “Do you/the applicant have an offending background?  Yes/No”

We explained to the housing provider that we felt that the wording on the application form was misleading and meant that an applicant may disclose something that they were not legally obliged to do. This in turn could result in their spent conviction being relied upon by the housing provider when making a housing decision.

The provider was surprised by our findings but immediately amended their forms and policy documents.

A section was added to their application/allocation policy, namely “Applications for those with criminal convictions” which stated that only unspent convictions would be considered as part of the application process.

The accommodation application form made it clear that only unspent convictions needed to be disclosed. The question now read:

 

“Do you/the applicant have any unspent convictions?  Yes/No”

 

Lessons

This case demonstrates that whilst organisations may believe they are complying with the law around disclosure of criminal records, many are not, and may be holding information that they are not legally entitled to.

Notes about this case study

This case study relates to our work with other organisations.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

 

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