Unlock the system
I read with interest the June FW article by Denis MacShane on prisoner access to financial services. Sadly, his experiences of bank accounts and insurance are not uncommon.
Opening even a basic bank account provides access to employment opportunities, as well as to government benefits and charitable grants. Yet far too often we hear of people leaving prisons without a bank account, though there are processes in place to help them – partly set up by Unlock.
With regard to insurance, this affects more than just people leaving prison. Anybody who has an unspent criminal conviction (a court fine is unspent for a year, a 1-year prison sentence is unspent for 5 years) will normally have to disclose it for home insurance, and often motor insurers ask too. The feeling amongst insurers, so we are
told, is that criminal convictions are ‘relevant to the risk’. We have never seen any evidence for this – quite the opposite in-fact. We have worked hard to develop a wide range of insurance services that can help people with unspent convictions, and these companies tell us that people with convictions represent their best customers. But mainstream insurers continue to rule out anybody who has unspent convictions.
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves whether we want people with convictions to be integrated into our society. If the answer is ‘yes’, we have deal with the obstacles that are in their way. If we would rather exclude them and treat them differently, we should not be too surprised if we struggle to reduce the stubbornly high re-offending rates that continue to plague our failing criminal justice system.
Christopher Stacey, Co-Director, Unlock