In July 2018, the government announced it was scrapping ‘disqualification by association’.

This followed a Department for Education consultation in 2016. Read our submission to this consultation

For more news:

  1. see the posts at the bottom of this page
  2. click here for a full list of news posts
  3. sign up our mailing list to receive updates by email

The problem

In October 2014, the Department for Education (DoE) published supplementary advice to schools on what are called the ‘childcare disqualification requirements’. This caused significant confusion and resulted in hundreds of people being suspended from their jobs.

In February 2015, after many organisations, including Unlock, had been putting pressure on the Government, they removed their supplementary advice and replaced it with statutory guidance published in February 2015.

In particular, this updated guidance makes it clear that the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act applies to the “by association” element of the process:

“Employees cannot be required to disclose spent cautions and convictions relating to individuals who live or are employed in the same household as them” (Page 11 of the statutory guidance).

The requirements have been around for a number of years, and apply to registered childcare provision outside of schools, but it’s only since October 2014 that the DoE has made it clear that these also apply to primary schools, and one aspect that’s received the most attention has been the ‘disqualification by association’ part.

This system means that not only are individuals with convictions affected in their own employment chances within school settings as a result of DBS checks and these regulations directly, but this system can also result in their partners, and others they live with, being potentially prevented from doing their jobs too.

It seems that the regulations were originally intended to be used in childcare settings where partners and others living in the household may have contact with the individuals being cared for.

We’ve had reports that Trade Unions have been inundated with cases of individuals being suspended, and one of the main reasons seems to be the lack of clarity about how this system actually operates and who it affects.

What we think needs to change

Ultimately, we’re calling for the application of these regulations to primary schools to be scrapped.

What we’re doing

We’ve produced a practical information guide to help people understand how this system seems to be working in practice.

We are working with a number of organisations to do all that we can to try and challenge this system, particularly the ‘disqualification by association’ element.

As part of this work, we’re looking to collect as many examples as possible of individuals directly affected by the ‘disqualification by association’ element, so please let us know if this has affected you.

Ultimately, we’re calling for the application of these regulations to primary schools to be scrapped.

What we’ve achieved

February 2015 – Many organisations, including Unlock, have been putting pressure on the Government, which has resulted in them removing their supplementary advice and replacing it with statutory guidance published in February 2015.

Let us know if this affects you

Send us details of how you’ve been affected by email to

Any personal details that you send us will be entirely confidential and will not be shared outside of Unlock without your express permission.

For more details on sending your details to us, click here.

Case studies

Louisa – The ongoing impact of my husband’s offence – ‘Disqualified by association’

Cheryl – The long wait to get a waiver decision from Ofsted has had a detrimental effect on me and my family

Terence – ‘Disqualification by association’ requirements having a negative impact on individuals without a criminal record

Sadie – University using ‘disqualification by association’ requirements inappropriately

Also some cases that our helpline has dealt with:

Albert – My daughter shouldn’t have been ‘Disqualified by association’ due to my caution

Celine – How ‘Disqualification by association’ unjustly effects the lives of family members who don’t have a conviction

Donna – It’s my conviction, not my children’s – the problem with the disqualification by association requirement

Latest news

See the bottom of this page for our latest posts about this issue.

You can also find below the latest from Twitter, using the hashtags #disqualifiedbyassociation and #scrapDbA (although we cannot endorse what gets displayed here).


Submission – Response to Government consultation on childcare disqualification (July 2016)

For more information

  1. Practical self-help information – We’ve produced a brief guide to help people understand how this system seems to be working in practice.
  2. Personal experiences – We have posts relating to disqualification by association on our online magazine, theRecord
  3. Discuss this issue – There’s an interesting discussion on our online forum about this – read and share your thoughts
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