Akil felt compelled to share his experience of applying for a voluntary role with the NHS and hopes this reassures others that all is not lost just because you have a criminal record.

Between the ages of 17 and 18 I led a fairly turbulent lifestyle which resulted in several convictions including common assault, criminal damage and robbery. That was 18 years ago.

I have lived in fear of these all my life and how they would affect me. I never went near any jobs that needed DBS checks even though I didn’t know what the checks would show.

However I have worked continually since I was 18 and have lived a mainly positive life with no further involvement with the police or the criminal justice system. I am now married with a daughter and I work for a large public sector organisation.

When the Covid-19 pandemic started I wanted to do something to help and so signed up to be an NHS Community Responder. No criminal record check was required to be a basic responder which involved picking up medications and delivering them to those who were isolated or shielding.

I’d been volunteering as a basic responder for a little while when applications opened for Community Responders Plus and Patient Transport Volunteers. As I was really interested in expanding my volunteering experience I started to consider whether this was something I should apply for.

I quickly discovered that the role required an enhanced DBS and barred list check something I would have previously avoided. However, I completed and submitted the application form and waited to see what would happen.

It was a nerve wracking wait and when my enhanced certificate arrived I saw that other than my conviction for robbery, everything else had been filtered. I then received an email from the NHS volunteer team stating that they were aware that a conviction appeared on my DBS certificate but not the details of it. They asked me to provide a copy of the certificate and also confirmed that it would be necessary for them to carry out a risk assessment which would be done by telephone.

I spent several hours preparing for my interview, putting together a disclosure statement that outlined the circumstances surrounding my convictions, the impact and how I felt about them now. It was truthful and I felt it demonstrated how I’d matured and changed my life for the better.

I used the statement to answer the interviewers questions and although she was polite and understanding and agreed that I was a different person now, she told me that it was her manager who had to make the final decision. Not long after I received the “Thanks, but no thanks” email.

I felt that I needed to know more; I wanted to know how they had arrived at their decision and so I applied for a subject access request so that I could see the risk assessment for myself.

Within 24 hours I received a telephone call from the volunteer manager apologising profusely and saying that she wholly disagreed with the decision made not to approve me for the volunteering role. She said that she would be reversing the decision with immediate effect as it was clear that I posed no danger and that balance had not been applied to the risk assessment. I am pleased to say that I am now a Community Responder Plus volunteer.

My experience has highlighted a couple of things to me:

  • Firstly, people still judge and have pre-conceptions of those with criminal convictions, but
  • If you fight for what you want and appeal, the outcome can be very different.

This situation has been a game-changer for me. I now know what is going to appear on my DBS certificate and I can prepare for that. My attitude to applying for jobs which require a standard or enhanced DBS check has completely changed and I now feel a lot more comfortable and confident in discussing my conviction openly and without shame.

By Akil (name changed to protect identity)

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