New charity rules that impact on people with convictions come into force today

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There are over 11 million people in this country with a criminal record. Many of them play a vital role in contributing to the work of charities. There are many charities, including those working with people in the criminal justice system, that are ‘user led’ or actively involve their beneficiaries at a senior level in their organisation.

Almost anyone is allowed to run a charity, but there are rules that mean some people with a criminal record are prevented from being able to unless they have clearance from the Charity Commission.

Those rules have changed today (1st August 2018). Changes to the ‘automatic disqualification’ rules mean some people with certain convictions will be prevented from being able to run a charity, unless they have clearance from the Charity Commission. The changes cover a wider range of criminal records and apply to certain senior manager roles as well as trustee positions.

Unlock has long opposed these changes – we continue to argue that they are disproportionate and an ineffective way of protecting charities. But in response to the implementation timetable set out by government and the Charity Commission, we published guidance for charities and individuals in February 2018, which we have now updated and published today to reflect the changes having fully come into force.

It’s important that charities of all shapes and sizes get to grips with these changes, not just those that work in criminal justice. If you particularly involve people with criminal convictions in your organisation’s leadership, it is vital to understand what you can do to support people who are affected by the new rules to be involved.

For individuals that are affected by these changes, our guidance for individuals (and online tool) is designed to help. If you think you need to apply for a waiver, or are in the process of doing so, please get in touch with our helpline so that we can support where possible.

Commenting on figures featured in news articles today in Third Sector and Civil Society, Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said:

“The figures that the Charity Commission has released today do not give any detail on how many of the waivers they have granted relate to people with a criminal record, and that is an important figure to being able to understand the impact of these changes and how well the waiver process is working.


“We know of some cases where individuals have waited months for a decision, and it’s concerning to learn that over 1 in 3 waiver applications are still being considered. Given that these decisions might have significant implications for people’s livelihoods, it’s important that the commission is making sure that it’s meeting its aim of making decisions within 21 days.


“Research of small charities has shown that 70% of organisations are not aware of the changes and the majority lack confidence in their understanding of the impact the changes will have on people involved in their charities. The fact that a third of the waiver applications so far were not applicable points to this lack of knowledge and confidence.


“Today, we’ve launched updated guidance, supported by Clinks, to help charities understand the changes and to look at what steps to take to maintain and increase the involvement of people with criminal records within charities.”


More information

  1. A blog by our co-director, Christopher Stacey, on the changes that came into force today
  2. Our updated guidance for charities
  3. Our updated guidance for individuals
  4. The charity rule changes page on our website.
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