Looking back at some key moments in 2015

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With the Christmas break almost upon us and 2015 coming to an end, we wanted to write a short note to reflect on the last 12 months.

Yet again, it’s been an incredibly successful and busy year for Unlock with lots of positive news and progress to report. We’ve continued to expand the information, advice and support we provide to help people overcome the stigma of their convictions, and we’ve strengthened our advocacy role by challenging discriminatory practices. With new and particularly unnecessary government policy being introduced that puts more barriers in the way of people with convictions, our work is more important now than it ever has been.

We look forward to building on the progress we’ve made in 2015 and going from strength to strength in the coming year. This will start in earnest in January with the implementation of our new strategic plan for 2016-2020.

In the meantime, on behalf of the entire Unlock team, we would like to wish the people we help, our volunteers, partner organisations, supporters and funders a very merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year.

All the best,

Christopher Stacey & Julie Harmsworth | Co-Directors of Unlock


Here’s a round-up of some of the key moments for Unlock during the year;

Overall, we have 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 has 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 will have helped over 40,000 people work out when their convictions become spent.
  • We remain incredibly grateful to all of the fantastic volunteers that have helped us cope with this huge demand!
  • In October, we published some examples of people we’ve helped, and we’ve gradually built up a bank of stories over the year which we have published anonymously on our website.

In January, we were hit by ‘disqualification by association’ – an unnecessary barrier in the way of people with convictions and their families. We issued a press release, did media interviews, and there were some concessions by Government, but it still remains a problem. It’s now become an issue we’re focusing on, and we continue to argue that it should scrapped!

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.

Also in February, we made some changes to our Disclosure Calculator which made it much easier to work out if (or when) convictions become spent.

On the 10th March, finally the practice known as ‘enforced subject access’ became a criminal offence. This was something we’d long campaigned for, and was an important step in making sure that employers and organisations don’t take part in the unsavoury practice of requiring individuals to provide a copy of their police records through their rights of subject access.

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 August, we published a draft for consultation of our ‘Principles of Fair Chance Recruitment’ as part of our employment project to support employers to recruit people with criminal convictions and deal with criminal records fairly.

In September, Google were ordered by the Information Commissioners Office to remove search results about a spent conviction, which marked significant progress in our work on the ‘google-effect’ for people with spent convictions.

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.

Also in November, we published a briefing about the Charities Bill, raising our concerns about the issues relating to criminal records.

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.

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