On the 26th January, the Charities Bill was discussed again in Parliament. Sir Edward Garnier MP, a patron of Unlock and a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust, raised a number of the concerns that we’ve been highlighting. He also discussed an amendment that he put forward.
There are some key extracts of what was said below, but in terms of progress, we’re pleased to see that:
- The Government has delayed the introduction of the changes to a minimum of 12 months (which is up from potentially only 6 months) which gives charities and people affected by the changes a chance to understand them and prepare accordingly
- The Government has responded to our concern about how offences from overseas were going to be treated by, instead, applying the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act as it applies in this country
- The Charity Commission has set up a working group and will consult with charities on the review of the waiver process
- The Government is going to lay a report on the impact of the bill on people with criminal records
We’re very grateful to the support of Edward Garnier for helping us in this work, and we’re now focusing our efforts on working with the Charity Commission to ensure that:
- The review of the waiver process results in a fairer and more inclusive approach towards dealing with people who have convictions that want to become trustees of charities.
- There is clear guidance available to both charities and individuals on the impact of these changes and how they can work with the waiver process
We will continue to keep the trustee section of our website up to date with news and developments as they arise.
Some key extracts from the discussion in Parliament
“A number of the provisions of clause 9 represent a direct threat to charities that work to rehabilitate people with criminal records, many of which employ former offenders either as trustees or in senior management positions…”
“Unlock’s direct experience and the support it has provided to other organisations have shown the waiver process to be inadequate and not workable in a way that allows charities such as Unlock to fulfil their charitable purposes. To ensure the process is fair and transparent, much greater clarity is needed regarding the criteria adopted by the commission in assessing waiver applications and the weight given to the views of the trustees of the charity or charities concerned.” Sir Edward Garnier
“Charities and the voluntary sector play a significant role in the support and rehabilitation of ex-offenders, and we should recognise and encourage their important contribution to reducing reoffending and helping former offenders to reintegrate into society. I want to ensure that the Bill’s provisions do not have an undue impact on that very important work…
“For the record, I can confirm that we will not commence the automatic disqualification provisions in clause 9 for 12 months following enactment…
“I have asked the Charity Commission to engage closely with rehabilitation charities, such as Unlock, as it develops new guidance on the waivers ahead of the commencement of the provisions. It has agreed to do so and has started to set up a working group to consider how the changes will be implemented. For example, it has invited several rehabilitation charities to a workshop in February to discuss the Bill and the implementation of these provisions” Rob Wilson MP, Minister for Civil Society
“I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) that, in extending disqualification, we must take extra care not to undermine the vital work done by charities involved in the rehabilitation of offenders. I am confident that the waiver process will allow those who have changed their ways a route back into charity trusteeship or senior management.” Matthew Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office
Written by Christopher Stacey, Co-Director of Unlock