The opportunity to compete for employment
Holyrood's article on October 23 (Police call for ministers to water down disclosure proposals) does not contextualise Police Scotland’s response to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 consultation.
The Scottish Government proposals aim to help people with less serious offences compete for employment by reducing the requirement to disclose some convictions. The work of Recruit With Conviction has shown some employers currently deselect anyone who discloses a conviction at application.
The proposals do not create dangers and they retain more detailed disclosure of convictions for certain jobs such as nurses, accountants, lawyers and where the work has close contact with vulnerable people. Similar changes implemented in England and Wales in March 2014 have not resulted in problems for employers.
Reducing “rehabilitation periods” makes no effect on police investigations and the police retain the right to disclose additional information about protected convictions under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.
The article also references domestic crime resulting in admonishments or fines becoming spent after six months and 12 months respectively, however tensions relating to unemployment are more likely to cause re-offending. While any criminal conviction is a disadvantage in applying for work, labels like “domestic” or “racially aggravated” are understandably toxic.
Denying anyone a fair opportunity to compete for employment is effectively the same as denying them rehabilitation and an opportunity to contribute to society as citizens and taxpayers. Such exclusion is a second punishment which is only likely to perpetuate a never-ending cycle of low self-esteem and anti-social behaviour.
A fifth of Scottish adults have a criminal conviction and there are commonly links with deprivation and unemployment.
The proposals for reforming the 1974 Act would help Graham who was fined three years ago for possession of drugs at a music festival, giving him the same employment rights in Scotland that he would have in England. Graham is like many other people with convictions and has been rejected from a number of jobs specifically because of this conviction.
These proposals promote safe and sustainable employment. The Scottish Government should quickly implement them even as a diversity and welfare-to-work strategy.
However, new and bold measures are still required to devise employment solutions for people who seek to change their lives when they leave prison or after completing community orders. The identity of a working, contributing citizen is a stake-holding in society, something well worth holding on to.
Richard Thomson is director of the charity Recruit With Conviction
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