After my court case, I came home dealing with mixed emotions about everything and wondering how to forgive myself. I was worried about strangers judging me, even though my family were supportive. Probation referred me to employment-related workshops and groups online. I had some issues initially, but I had the support from a good probation officer who was a Black woman, which helped.
I have always worked, so having a year at home was very challenging for me mentally. I was very nervous and anxious about going out at the time.
I think it’s the prejudice and what other people think which is the worst part. I have come to realise that lots of women, including women over 40, like me, have criminal records. At the first interview I got, I didn’t want to disclose that I had a criminal record because I wasn’t sure how to articulate it, so I didn’t attend the interview. It took over a year for me to build up the language and confidence to disclose my convictions at an interview. Once I knew how to disclose, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
Working Chance did a lot to support me. My adviser was amazing, she was very down to earth and friendly. We spoke twice a week. I started attending online workshops to help build up my confidence. The Zoom workshops on DBS* and disclosure were especially good. I was encouraged to update my CV, which I had been putting off because of my circumstances. Once I had updated it, I was put forward for three jobs. I got an interview and within a few days, I started work.
I am really well looked after at my workplace and I’ve felt extra confident lately. Everyone is great! I am so happy to be working.
My advice to other women with a conviction would be to talk to somebody. You need to be able to talk so that you can open up and get out of your own head. Support from other women in similar circumstances is very important – do not suffer in silence, and say yes to opportunities!
* The DBS, or Disclosure and Barring Service, is the criminal record checking service.