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Over the last 3 months the number of people claiming out of work benefits has more than doubled. Like many people with a criminal record, Robbie is worried about how this will further impact on his chances of getting a job.

Every time I turn on the television these days the news is bleak – the number of people claiming out of work benefits has risen, the furlough scheme is coming to an end in October and more and more companies are being forced to cut jobs.

All sectors have been affected; young and old, senior managers and factory workers, all looking for new jobs. What chance do I stand – the guy with the criminal record.

Yes I have a criminal record. I’ve got more than one conviction but my last one was the most serious. Embezzling money from my previous employer, a well known supermarket.

I’d been employed by them for about 12 years, and my offending had started a year or so before it was actually discovered. I was dismissed from my job and given a community order when my case went to court. I avoided a prison sentence because my family paid all the money back to the supermarket in full.

Details of my court case appeared on the front page of my local newspaper and anybody can Google my name and find out what I’ve done. I didn’t realise how many employers do searches like this on potential employees and this has definitely made it harder for me to find a job.

I know what I did was wrong and I am truly sorry for it. I not only deceived my employers but I’ve caused so much pain and worry for my family, in particular my mum who stood by me through it all. It’s something I regret every day of my life.

Since my last conviction I’ve not been in any further trouble and I can honestly say that I will never break the law again. I can’t explain why I stole the money, I can only put it down to greed and stupidity. I was certainly drinking a lot more than I should and this may have been a factor but not an excuse.

Since I lost my supermarket job, I’ve been unable to get any type of paid employment. I’ve successfully completed two courses at evening school and an 8 week unpaid work placement in a clerical role with my local NHS hospital. Last year I went back to college full time to study for an HNC in administration and IT in the hope that it would improve my chances of securing paid work.

Up until the coronavirus pandemic struck I’d been working as a volunteer at a local charity shop. Even though I had to disclose my conviction to the shop manager, she was happy to give me the opportunity to prove myself. Knowing that she was prepared to see beyond my conviction and place some trust in me meant so much. The shop is due to reopen next week and I’m looking forward to going back, it’s good to have some structure to my day and a reason to get up in the morning.

Ideally I’d like an admin or clerical role to put into use the things I’ve learnt at college. The majority of employers have a section on their application form which asks about cautions and convictions and my heart always sinks when I see that question. I appreciate that I have made things much harder for myself and I can certainly understand why an employer would be loath to take somebody on who has a criminal record.

But, I just want a chance to show that I’ve learnt from my mistakes – I’ve learnt a lot about myself and what’s important in life. I want to show that I can be trusted and I know that I’ve got a lot to offer a potential employer.

My future seems bleak. The jobs market is hard enough for people who don’t have a criminal record never mind those like me who do. I wish I could wind back time but I can’t. All I can do is hope that somebody sees fit to give me a chance – I’d grab it with both hands.

By Robbie  (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

In 2015 Unlock launched it’s fair access to employment project. A key part of this work is to support employers in developing and implementing fair and inclusive polices and practices and to recognise the diverse talent of people with a criminal record.

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