Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill

Written evidence submitted by Staffordshire and West Midlands CRC (CHB 14)

As someone that works with people with criminal convictions every day on the issues of employment training and education I understand how difficult it can be to secure sustainable employment with a record. Many of the people that we work with have no work history or any way of getting a reference through 'normal' employment routes but one of the areas that they can gain experience is by working with charities, particularly those that are service user led. If the Charities Bill makes it difficult or impossible for people with convictions to act as Trustees or paid employees of these organisations, and others, then it will be shutting down an opportunity for someone trying to re-establish themselves in society from getting a foot on the ladder. Working as a Trustee for example can give a person with a conviction(s) a sense of purpose, it can help them to improve their confidence, increase their social circle, give them an opportunity to develop new skills, provide an opportunity to get a reference, to develop a work ethic, to feel that they are valued and can make an important contribution. All of these things are crucial to rehabilitation and desistance and if these opportunities are restricted or removed completely it makes the job of rehabilitating people more difficult.

In terms of charities that are service user led, who is better placed to support people with convictions than those that have been through the system? This isn't about people with convictions being soft on other people with convictions; in my experience it is the people that have similar experiences who will be more vociferous in their challenging of 'offending' behaviour than any professional and they can be, they have a shared experience that we, as professionals, do not completely understand and the people working for these charities, either voluntarily or as paid staff, have made the change that we are trying to encourage in others; they demonstrate that it can be done and there is no better role model than this.

Regarding the blanket ban on those that are on the sex offender register, this appears to be an at best, clumsy attempt, to deal with safeguarding and does it not bring the Bill into conflict with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act if convictions become spent but are still used as a bar to working for a charity? The potential for this to lead to a challenge in the courts is clearly surely.

December 2015

 

Prepared 4th January 2016