by Vicki

I recently applied for a job as a senior mentor post, a post I already hold, and have held for 7 years, in a primary school. Despite passing the assessment and seemingly giving all the right answers in the interview, I was turned down for the job, despite showing them character references from my last two employers, two prominent head teachers.

I declared on my application that I had a criminal record, enclosing details in a sealed envelope as they requested. The problem is, I have two offences as part of one conviction dating back to the late 2000’s: two counts of ‘failing to notify of a change of circumstances required by regulations under the act on 14th April 2003 Social Security Administration Act 1992’.

My guess is that they took one look at this and thought they’d show willing by  shortlisting me and calling me for an interview, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that I wouldn’t get the job. There were extenuating circumstances to my actions (I suffered a double bereavement in the space of a 5 day period, plus caring for a father who suffers from Parkinson’s) and my solicitor said that I was probably suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Prior to this conviction, I had never broken the law in any way shape or form, and, obviously, have not done so since. I was sentenced to two suspended sentences (to run concurrently), and 100 community service, which I completed over 13 weeks (one Saturday a week) receiving glowing comments on my paperwork each week from the team leader, for my work ethic.

I am too embarrassed and scared to apply for jobs, especially as I work with children and so am subject to an enhanced disclosure. I applied for a job last year, and though they eventually offered me employment, it felt like I was given the third degree, having already declared the conviction, I then had to sit in a room before I could sign my contract, to explain my actions. If the ground could have opened up and swallowed me whole, I would have happily jumped in. In the end, I turned the job down because they made me feel as if they were doing me a favour, and I didn’t want them to have me over a barrel.

It really is very hard. I don’t want the conviction to define who I am as a person: a single parent, a sister, aunt and a carer for my disabled parents, but employees don’t see that, they just see ‘criminal’. Thankfully, I have the support of my family, and my son. Telling him what I had done was the hardest thing I’d had to do, since telling him that his father had died. My son is the one that gives me the confidence to apply for jobs, reminding me that I am actually very good at what I do.

I’m resigned to the fact now, though, in my 40’s, I will be one of those people that just stays in their job until such time that they can retire, because the thought of having to bare my soul each time I apply for a job, well, it’s soul destroying.

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