Trustee or senior manager of a charity and have convictions? Are you affected by the Charities Act 2016?

Blog by Christopher Stacey, Co-Director of Unlock.

People with convictions play an important role in many charities, particularly those working in the criminal justice sector. Becoming a trustee or leading a charity as part of the senior management team are important roles that people with convictions should be encouraged to take on, and we know it can provide people with a positive pro-social identity.

That’s why for the last few years, we’ve taken an active interest in the extensions to the rules that have become law through the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016. This blog is intended to cover some of the background to where we are now, and help you to understand whether you’re affected.

Likely to come into force in 2017, specific parts of the act will extend the rules (that currently apply to trustees) to senior management positions of charities. The types of offences covered will also be extended to include unspent convictions for terrorism and money laundering, as well as to those on the sex offenders register (even when the conviction is spent).

As a charity that exists to support the efforts of people with convictions in moving on positively with their lives, and as an organisation which itself seeks to recruit trustees and leaders who themselves have convictions, we are concerned about the potential impact of these proposals, as well as being concerned about how the current system operates.

There are proposals within the act that represent a direct threat to Unlock and to other charities that work to rehabilitate people with criminal records, many of whom employ people with criminal records either as trustees or in senior management positions. At the heart of the voluntary sector is the principle of working with our service users, rather than doing things to them. This is no less important with people in the criminal justice system than with any other group. Any unnecessary barriers to the recruitment of people with convictions as trustees and in senior positions is a threat to the core mission of our sector.

We remain of the view that the planned extension of the disqualification framework to senior managers (previously just trustees) should be scrapped. We also believe the provisions should only apply while a conviction is unspent. Ultimately, we think that the changes brought in by the 2016 Act are disproportionate and an ineffective way of protecting charities.

From a pragmatic perspective, we’re concerned that the government appear to remain committed to introducing these changes in 2017. We received assurances from government, when the bill was passing through Parliament, that there would be sufficient time ahead of implementation so that the waiver process could be improved and that guidance could be drafted, published and circulated, so that those affected would have an opportunity to take steps to obtain a waiver in advance of the changes coming into force.

We’re working closely with Clinks and others to ensure that both charities and people with convictions are aware of what’s on the horizon, so that they can make sure they’re prepared. That’s why we’ve published a briefing in partnership with Clinks – the aim of the briefing is to inform key stakeholders about the main issues and the possible impact of the act on people with convictions and charities that have them as trustees and/or senior managers. We’re also producing guidance in early 2017.

We’re also keen to hear from people, in confidence, if they believe they will be impacted by the new act.

Am I affected? Questions to help

  1. Are you a trustee or senior manager* of a charity? (*although the Charity Commission has not yet issued definitive guidance on the phrase ‘senior manager’, we expect it to mainly relate to chief executives, directors or finance directors)
  2. Do you have unspent convictions? (our disclosure calculator can help you work out if your convictions are spent)
  3. If you have unspent convictions, are they for dishonesty-related offences, deception-related offences, money laundering or terrorism-related offences?
  4. Are you on the sex offenders register?

You are likely to be affected by the changes if:

  • you answered ‘yes’ to questions 1, 2 and 3,
  • you answered ‘yes’ to questions 1 and 4

If you think you’re affected, please get in touch with us. This will help us in the work we’re doing with the government and the Charity Commission in the months ahead.

Email, in confidence, explaining why you think you’ll be affected. We won’t share any of your details outside of Unlock without your explicit permission.

You can follow the progress of this work on this policy section of our website.

This blog was originally posted on the Unlock site.

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