Through our policy and campaign work our aim is to achieve changes in policies and practices so that we have a fairer and more inclusive society. A key approach to this work is ‘ear to the ground, voice at the top’.
Through our information, advice and support, we make sure that we listen and learn about the difficulties that people with convictions are facing as a result of their criminal record when they are trying to move on with their lives. In response to these problems, we identify recurring/systemic issues that could be resolved through changes in policy. We also challenge bad practice on a case-by-case basis through our advocacy work.
As a result of this work, we’ve achieved some significant changes in policy and practice, such as reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
However, to continue to do this work, we rely on the support of people like you, so that we continue to stand up for people with convictions and seek change for the better. This page explains some of the ways that you can this.
- Send us your evidence, experiences and story
- Lobby your MP
- Share your story with the media or others
- Get support from influential people
- Support us financially
1. Send us your evidence, experiences and story
As part of our policy & campaign work, we’re always looking for examples and experiences that provide evidence of the problems that people with convictions are facing. This is where we need your help, so that we can better challenge unfair policies and practices.
Current issues that we’re looking for experiences and evidence on
We focus on specific issues that we’re proactively seeking to get experiences and evidence on.
Find out more about the issues that we’re looking for experiences and evidence on.
2. Lobby your MP
The only people in England & Wales who can change the law are MPs. They are, therefore, Unlock’s most important audience when it comes to our policy and campaign work. As an advocacy organisation, we recognise that progress does not come from simply criticising the current system. As an independent charity, we’re able to honestly engage with the system and advance what is an overwhelmingly powerful argument with patience and determination.
The importance of writing to your MP
Many MPs gauge public opinion by the number of letters and emails they receive on a particular subject, so writing to them is important.
You can e-mail your MP, use an online tool such as WriteToThem, or write by letter (snail mail). Some people think a letter is more likely to get a response, but there’s probably no truth in that. However the MP will reply with a letter.
You can write to your MP as often as you like, but if you regularly bombard him or her with irate e-mails, the chances are you will be ignored
How do I contact my MP?
The postal address follows a standard format:
(Name of MP, e.g. George Osborne MP)
House of Commons
If you prefer email to snail mail, you can use the WriteToThem tool.
If you wish to obtain any other specific details about your MP, then you can contact them or their secretaries by calling the House of Commons Switchboard on 0207 219 3000 and asking to be put through to their office.
Whether you write by post or e-mail, always include at the head of your letter or e-mail:
Your full name and address, including post code.
Contact phone number (daytime landline and mobile of you have both
If you don’t include these details, your letter will be ignored as MPs are only obliged to respond to their own constituents. Unless there is a very specific reason for doing so, it’s pretty much pointless writing to an MP who is not your own.
What to include in the letter
Keep it short. The basic letter should be no more than one side of A4, although you can include additional information such as photocopies or scans of documents etc.
A carefully considered letter is far more effective, and will attract greater support, than an intense, ill-thought out tirade. Don’t make more than one, or perhaps at most two key points and keep your argument factual, if possible backing it up it with references to research documents, newspaper reports etc.
It’s always good advice to plan your letter or email carefully, to leave it for a few hours and then to read it again before posting. That way you can be sure of making the points you intended to make. Ensure you include your full name and address.
It is always important that you ask your MP something concrete; for example ask them whether they would support moves to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, or you could just ask them to clarify their position and give reasons for it.
If the issue you are raising is of particular relevance to you, then ensure you highlight your personal interest because your MP is more likely to pay greater attention it.
If you have a question for a minister, the convention is that you write to your MP and ask him or her to pass your letter or e-mail onto the minister on your behalf. You don’t need to know the minister’s name, just their correct title.
The golden rules when writing to your MP is to include contact details, be formal but polite, keep it short, make one or at most two points and ask a direct question to discover his or her attitude to the issue at hand.
Lobbying your MP
Lobbying is the process of attempting to influence the decisions made by officials in the government. As a member of the public, the best mechanism you have to do this is through the use of your local MP. If you don’t attempt to inform and influence the decision making process then your concerns won’t be heard or considered. Don’t leave it to someone else to speak up for you, they might not exist!
Whether or not you voted for your local MP, or even agree with their political views, you can lobby them to gain their help. They are able to submit parliamentary questions, write a letter to the relevant minister, or even arrange a meeting with the minister responsible for the issue of concern to you. Lobbying also enables you to force an MP to show where their allegiance lies on a particular subject.
Other than writing to them, you can lobby your MP in a number of ways: You can set up a meeting with them or use your local media by getting them to raise the issue or highlight a campaign, challenging your MP for a response.
You can request a meeting with your MP at anytime. The easiest way, however, is to request an appointment during their ‘surgery’ hours. All MPs hold local surgeries, the dates, times and locations are advertised in advance, you can obtain this information from their own website or by contacting their offices directly.
Needless to say if you do get a meeting with your MP, make an effort to be clean and presentable – that doesn’t mean wearing a suit, but do wear clean, tidy clothes. Be polite and have your case prepared in advance so you can make your argument clearly and concisely. Take copies of any supporting documents with you to give to him or her.
It is important that we establish a solid base of supportive MPs and Members of the Lords. Once we have done this we will be able to utilise them and their position on the subject to lobby other MPs and Members of the Lords.
Keep us in the loop
It’s always useful for us to know what MP’s are saying to their constituents about issues relating to criminal records.
Also, we’re always keen to develop positive relationships with MP’s and Peers in Parliament who are supportive of our cause. If you have an MP who you think would be supportive to our cause, please send us their details.
3. Share your story with the media or others
Very often, the reason things change is because problems and issues receive a high profile and gain support. Having issues flagged in the media, or informing research work, can be an effective way of doing this.
The media are always on the look out for interesting stories. Unlock regularly contribute to media pieces, but very often, personal case studies are what helps to make sure that the media take the story forward.
There are no hard and fast rules sharing your story with the media – most newspapers have websites with contact details, and television and radio programmes usually have the same.
We have some general advice that we provide if you’re thinking of sharing your story.
If you’re sharing your story with particular media outlets and if they’re running something, please let us know as we may be able to contribute as an organisation, or help to raise awareness of it.
4. Get support from influential people
5. Support us financially
A donation helps Unlock continue to support people to overcome past difficulties and move forward with hope to make a positive contribution to society – we appreciate every penny. DONATE NOW.
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- Blog - How can people with criminal records access higher education? Posted on: Oct 22nd, 2019
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