Government considers ending criminal record disclosure for public sector jobs

27 Feb 17

The practice of requiring prospective employees to disclose criminal records in the initial stage of public sector job applications could soon end, the government has indicated.

This would implement recommendations from MPs on the work and pensions committee, and expand the ban introduced in 2013 by then-prime minister David Cameron, who announced that the civil service would ban the criminal record disclosure box on initial stage recruitment forms, with some exceptions.

This was one of the recommendations made by MPs on the work and pensions committee in its report in December on increasing the support for former prisoners with a view to reducing the rate of reoffending.  

Published today by the committee, the government’s response indicates ministers are keen to take up several of the recommendations to assist ex-offenders in the critical transition from prison to normal life.

The committee had warned former prisoners “walk out of a cliff edge when they walk out of the prison door” and crucial to prevent them reoffending is to quickly help them find work and a place to live.

Reoffending costs the criminal justice system around £15bn per year, the committee noted, excluding the additional costs around healthcare, benefits or the human cost of crime.

However, those leaving prison are often “turned out literally onto the street with a £46 resettlement payment, weeks to wait for most benefits and little meaningful help in or out of prison to make the transition into work”. 

As well as considering banning the disclosure box from the public and private sector, the Ministry of Justice has ‘noted with interest’ the committee’s recommendation to reduce National Insurance contributions for employers who hire ex-offenders.

Moreover, the government has agreed with the committee’s view that organisations implementing community rehabilitation for offenders should be required to track the outcomes for prisoners they resettle.

Elsewhere, the government acknowledged it could improve the training and scope of work coaches assigned to assist prison leavers. However, the committee was disappointed that Whitehall had no plans to address one of the report’s recommendations, which would see prisoners’ benefit payments processed on the very first day of their release. 

Frank Field, chair of the committee, welcomed the government’s reaction. He said: “The government’s response is generally very positive and they are looking for ways to take forward many of our recommendations.

“But if the justice secretary is to get the number in prison down, the best route is to prevent the high re-offending rates. Once the government accepts our report in full, it will have the basis of an effective strategy to cut the supply route to re-offending.”

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