Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Barrier to employment lifted for thousands of ex-offenders [October 2023]

The press release issued by the Ministry of Justice on 30 October 2023.

Over 120,000 former offenders will find it easier to get work and turn their lives away from crime following a change in the law.

  • law change will help ex-offenders turn their back on crime and reduce reoffending
  • certain custodial sentences will no longer need to be declared removing a significant barrier to offenders rebuilding their lives
  • most serious offenders exempt from changes to keep the public safe

These changes significantly reduce the time people with criminal convictions are legally required to declare them to most potential employers after serving their sentence and when applying for courses, insurance and housing.

Under the previous rules, some offenders needed to disclose their sentences for the rest of their lives, even for crimes committed decades earlier, a significant barrier to them getting a job and rebuilding their lives.

Now, custodial sentences of four years or more years for less serious crimes become ‘spent’ after a seven-year period of rehabilitation, as long as no further offence is committed.

Offenders who have committed serious sexual, violent, or terrorist offences are excluded from these changes to ensure this does not result in an increased risk to the public.

Stricter disclosure rules will continue to apply to jobs that involve working with vulnerable people, through standard and enhanced DBS checks.

The Ministry of Justice has also brought in changes that will mean offenders serving shorter sentences for less serious crimes will need to declare their criminal record for shorter periods, helping turn their lives away from crime.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:

Carrying the weight of life-long criminal records even after serving their time is a huge barrier for many offenders seeking to reintegrate into society and turn away from a life of crime.

These reforms will help ex-offenders get the steady income, routine and purpose they need which cuts reoffending and ensures fewer members of the public become victims of crime.

The reforms came into force on Saturday (28 October 2023) under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. They will immediately impact thousands of people with previously unspent convictions, and many more each year. Nearly 125,000 people sentenced in 2022 alone will benefit from these changes.

Increasing the number of ex-offenders into jobs has formed a key part of the government’s work to reduce reoffending, which costs the taxpayer up to £18 billion each year. Research shows that former offenders in steady employment are nine percentage points less likely to commit further crimes.

Rapid progress has been made to boost employment for prison leavers, with the number of ex-offenders who have been successfully steered into jobs within 6 months more than doubling from 14% to 30% since April 2021.

The government has also recently announced reforms to give the lowest risk, and first-time offenders, the greatest chance to turn their lives around. By legislating that there should be a presumption against prison sentences of less than 12 months, these offenders will be punished in the community, repaying their debt to society by cleaning up our neighbourhoods and scrubbing graffiti off walls. This will help these offenders stay in work, connected to their families and better access the drug rehab and mental healthcare needed to properly addresses the root causes of their offending.

Naomi, who has previous convictions but has since been supported into steady employment with charity Recycling Lives, knows from experience how a criminal record can hinder opportunities to move away from a life of crime. She said:

This legislation is a massive step forward in improving rehabilitation opportunities and relationships between ex-offenders and employers.

It’s about eradicating stereotypical views and allowing ex-offenders to blossom in the life they have worked hard to create.

Unlock, a charity that supports ex-offenders to overcome the long-term disadvantages caused by their convictions, has also welcomed the law change. Dr Jo Easton, Joint Interim CEO, said:

We see first-hand through our helpline and advice service that having to disclose a criminal record introduces multiple barriers in everyday life; especially finding a job, somewhere to live, insurance or even accessing higher education.

While we are calling for even more fundamental reform to the criminal record system, these changes will make a huge difference for thousands of people, giving them the chance to move on with their lives much sooner.

Employment Advisory Boards have been established at 92 prisons over the last two years, linking business leaders with their local prisons to offer their expertise on the skills, qualifications and training needed to help prisoners re-enter the workforce.

Dedicated job experts have been recruited in every resettlement prison in England and Wales and the Prison Service has been hosting “Unlocked” job fairs which help match prison leavers with potential employers in sectors ranging from hospitality to construction.