Ex-prisoners shouldn’t have to declare their criminal convictions on initial job application forms, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said.
The cardinal told delegates at a conference on prison chaplaincy that employers should wait until a later stage of the interview process to disclose past convictions. He said this move would give ex-convicts the chance to “put their past in context and show who they really are”.
“Of course convictions have to be disclosed and where necessary DBS checks undertaken,” he said. “But people should not be written off without a hearing for actions in the past which may no longer have a bearing on their future.”
According to figures from the “Ban the Box” campaign, 10 million people in the UK have a criminal record. The campaign, which is supported by Cardinal Nichols, seeks to create opportunities for former convicts to compete for jobs by removing the tick box from application forms.
While emphasising that precautions must be taken to ensure that safeguarding remains paramount, Cardinal Nichols said that he would be looking at the Church’s own recruitment processes: “Over the coming year I look forward to discussions about how the Church can ban the box in our own employment practices, while taking all the necessary steps to ensure that safeguarding is never compromised.”
The cardinal said that individuals need to be prepared to accept punishment, but he identified the important role Catholic parishes can play to help people get their lives back on track: “Our parishes are particularly well placed to welcome people and help them get back on their feet. I hope and pray that this Year of Mercy will be a rallying call for Catholics actively to reach out a hand of friendship and offer practical assistance to those leaving prison. For even the smallest actions can give someone hope and help them to stay on the right path.”
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