As a youngster growing up my life was extremely chaotic. A mixture of getting in with the wrong crowd and being mentally unwell meant that I picked up a series of convictions – shoplifting, assault, burglary and possession of heroin. However, there reached a point when I realised that I needed to get away from the crowd I was mixing with and better myself. So I started studying for a degree in health and social care.
As my degree course came to an end, I turned my attention to job hunting and after sending off several applications, I was invited to an interview at a care home. Obviously, I was nervous – this was going to be my first proper job. The interview was going well and then the interviewer said:
You’ve ticked the box stating that you have a criminal conviction, can you tell me a little more about that’
I had so many but I disclosed what I could remember and the manager thanked me for being so honest.
A couple of days later I received a phone call offering me the job. I was asked to go in and complete the paperwork for my enhanced DBS check (I was told that I couldn’t start work until I’d received this) and put an order in for my uniform. I was over the moon.
Several weeks later my DBS certificate dropped through the letterbox and on opening it I felt physically sick. It was far more in-depth than I’d expected it to be with information about a short prison sentence that I hadn’t even mentioned and a couple of other things that I’d totally forgotten about. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten this stuff but I’d been mentally unwell at the time and had even been hospitalised for a while. What was I going to say to the manager when I had to take my DBS check in? He was going to see far more than he’d bargained for and I felt absolutely awful about it. I’d kept out of trouble for over 16 years yet it all seemed a waste of time – my past would follow me around forever.
I felt as though my future had just gone up in flames. I was young and stupid at the time of my offending. Addicted to drugs and mentally ill.
One of my neighbours works in the same care home and she’d been as excited as me when I told her that I’d got the job. What would happen when the job offer got revoked. It would be obvious that there’d been something on my DBS check. Would she tell anybody? My head was buzzing with the implications that handing over the certificate would have.
That night I dreamt about working in the care home. It was the strangest dream ever but it made me realise that I owed it to the manager to go and explain the situation. I rang the home and started to explain. The manager told me that he’d have to arrange for me to meet the company’s Area Manager as it was too much for him to deal with.
As I prepared for the meeting lots of scenario’s were running through my head. I’d convinced myself that the job offer would be withdrawn and even if it wasn’t and I started work I’d probably be treated differently to my colleagues. I read my DBS certificate over and over again and tried to remember what was happening at the time of each of my convictions.
On the day of the meeting, I walked into the office of the Area Manager and handed over the certificate. I gave her a moment to read through it and then started to explain. I told her that I hadn’t deliberately withheld information but as a result of my mental state at the time there was stuff that I just couldn’t remember. I told her about the care I’d been given when I was ill and how I really wanted to do the same for somebody else and how I felt that I’d never be able to shake off my past. She listened to everything I had to say and asked me couple of questions.
She thanked me for being so honest and I prepared myself to hear her say ‘unfortunately we won’t be able to progress any further with this job offer’.
Instead she said:
Congratulations, I think you’ll make an excellent addition to the team’
I’m starting to think that it might just be possible to shake off my past after all.
By Lizzie (name changed to protect identity)
A comment from Unlock:
Lizzie’s story demonstrates how there are employers willing to see beyond a criminal record and give people a second chance.
Although Lizzie initially forgot to disclose some of her convictions, her employers still gave her the opportunity to explain them in further detail when she handed over her DBS certificate. Sadly, many employers are not so obliging and, if the same situation had arisen elsewhere, Lizzie may have had the job offer revoked. Some employers might have taken the view that she had been deliberately dishonest.
Unlock’s advice would always be to find out exactly what is on your criminal record (apply for a subject access request if you’re not sure) before you start applying for jobs.
Great result Lizzie!
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