Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill

Written evidence submitted by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous (CHB 10)

I am writing after reading the briefing note written by Christopher Stacey of Unlock and I would like to support the amendments to the Bill as proposed by him.

I was convicted of a sexual offence in 2013. My case was covered widely by local media and, whilst my family and most of my friends stood by me, I lost my job, my reputation and my self-esteem. I had enjoyed a wide-ranging and successful career and, after several unsuccessful job applications, I thought I would never work again.

Unlock is a peer-led charity which recruits staff, volunteers and trustees that have criminal records. I had used its helpline and information services and decided to apply for a volunteer role, but the office is a one hour drive from my home so I could only commit to two days per week. I was made to feel very welcome, the paid employees and other volunteers judged me on what I had to offer rather than my offence and, most importantly to me, I felt I was contributing to society once more and I enjoyed the social interaction, which is something that I missed while I was not working.

I enjoyed my time at Unlock and would have stayed longer had it not been for a friend who offered me full-time paid employment. I now work in a business where I had no previous knowledge or experience, but my friend was aware of my voluntary work and my efforts to rebuild my life and he recognised me for my skills and abilities and not for my offence, which was a shock to him as much as it was to everybody else.

I am enjoying my new job and have achieved a lot in a short space of time. I am supporting my family again, I am paying tax and National Insurance and therefore contributing to society again in that way too, and my friends and family have said how much happier and healthier I appear.

I intend to stay in my job for some time, to repay my friend’s faith and loyalty to me. I do not have any particular ambitions to become a senior manager or a trustee of a charity at this time, but my career has taken many different directions and who knows what the future might hold for me? The Bill, as proposed, would exclude me and many suitable people from such positions.

I agree with Christopher Stacey’s conclusion that "The provisions of the Bill, which extends the disqualification framework to a broader range of offences and roles within charities, will undermine the ability of people with criminal records to participate actively in society through legitimate voluntary and paid work" and that "The automatic barring of people on the sex offenders register from becoming charity trustees is a crude and ineffective means of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults".

I also agree with his alternative approach in which he suggests that concerns could be mitigated by:

· "Aligning the provisions of the Bill with the requirements of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

· Strengthening the waiver process so that charities who wish to appoint a disqualified person are able to do so.

· Restricting the disqualification framework so that it does not impact on people employed in senior management, subject to appropriate safeguards.

· Creating an opt out from the legislation for charities which work with and/or employ people with criminal records as part of their charitable purpose".

I hope the above is helpful and that my submission, as an individual with personal experience and interest, could be considered by the Committee.

December 2015

 

Prepared 4th January 2016