Despite accepting her guilt and serving her prison sentence, Donna was horrified to learn that because of the career choices her children had made, they too would be affected by her criminal record.

 

I was recently released from prison having served 2.5 years for a sexual offence. I know there will be people who will be judging me, I can’t blame them for that. I’d have done the same a few years ago. But, one of the things you learn in prison is that there is always another side to the story. I don’t need to share that here, that’s not what this article’s about.

When I was taken into custody I had three children. They’re all adults now trying to make their way in the world. Two of them had secured jobs in schools but within weeks of starting work they were both suspended. Why? Because they’d returned to live with me, and nobody had told me that living in the same household as a person with an unspent conviction would mean they’d have to disclose it to the school. Until such a time as they’d been granted a waiver by Ofsted, they would be Disqualified by Association (DbA). I was devastated when I found out, as were they. The schools were initially very supportive and the applications for the waivers were submitted.

In addition to teaching, both my son and daughter were involved in other children’s organisations. They’d been members of these for many years and the organisations were totally aware of my conviction and what we’d been through as a family. I suggested that my children arrange to speak to the organisations about their suspensions from the schools and find out whether the same waiver process would apply. My son received lots of support and reassurance and continued his involvement with the children outside of his teaching job. However, for my daughter it was a different matter completely.

She had been a member of a gymnastics club for most of her life and held a coaching role at the club, a natural progression for many gymnasts. As soon as she explained what had happened at the school, the club suspended her too. This was done via social media messaging, where she was asked to pop in for a chat but not told what the ‘chat’ would involve. Basically it turned out to be a disciplinary meeting where she was suspended pending further investigation although she had no idea what they would be investigating.

It transpired that the clubs regulatory body had no policy regarding individuals living in a household with someone with an unspent sexual conviction, nor did the club. So, they really had no grounds to suspend her. My daughter heard nothing further from the club until a few weeks ago, when she received a letter from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) informing her that following a referral they would not be placing her on the barred list. Suddenly it all became clear – the gym had been trying to get her barred from ever working with children again, simply because she lived with me.

Months on from the start of this saga, my daughter remains suspended on full pay, and has had no further communication from the gym even though they will also have been informed by the DBS that she’s not barred from working with children.

And what about the schools? Both my children were asked to resign from the positions they held, primarily because the waiver decisions took so long. However, both head teachers implied that even if they had been given a waiver, they may not have been kept on.

A couple of weeks after they resigned, Ofsted finally contacted them to say that their waivers had been granted. However, this was too late for my children as the waiver relates to a specific role in a specific school and can’t be transferred to other schools where they may work in the future.

I have the conviction, my children don’t, if we’d known about DbA earlier my children’s career choices may have been very different or they could have elected not to live with me. My children have both been discriminated against because of my conviction, even though they’ve done nothing wrong themselves.

By Donna (name changed to protect identity)

 

A comment from Unlock

The legislation around Disqualification by Association was intended to apply to people working in roles like home-based childminders, where partners may come into contact with children. In October 2014 the Department for Education made it clear that it should also apply to those working in primary schools.

Our view is that DbA should be scrapped and in May 2016 we made a submission to the Department of Education’s consultation process. We’re currently awaiting an update on how they plan to proceed.

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