My journey from prison to employment was quite smooth because I had a job while on ROTL* during my sentence. I would go out to work at a charity that helps small charities build their capacity. It made going home after my sentence easier, because I could keep volunteering at the same place. My role was to help small charities get set up.
After five months they offered me a job, but it was admin, and that wasn’t an area I wanted to work in. My aim was to pursue the career I had before my sentence, in mental health services. I wanted to continue to do face-to-face client work, because that’s where my expertise lies.
I started to encounter issues when applying for roles in the NHS, the private sector, and agencies. They said I needed a clean DBS** although I had more than enough qualifications to perform the role. I had also worked in the sector previously despite having convictions dating from 1995 until 2010.
Although I met the criteria, I didn’t get the job because of my DBS. Employers discriminated against me because of my convictions, claiming I couldn’t ever be a rehabilitated fully-fledged member of society. They thought this without even knowing me.
At Working Chance, I had a good rapport with my adviser. When I said to her that I am not giving up on my career she listened to what I actually wanted. Working Chance helped me out with applications. But when COVID-19 hit us, everything slowed down. My adviser encouraged me to apply for a role at a charity. At first, I was reluctant because of my previous experiences, but I ended up applying and got an interview straight away. After a second interview they offered me the job.
My advice to other women with experience of the criminal justice system would be: know where you want to go, have a dream, have a goal, don’t let a label stop you. See barriers as challenges. You may need to go around, under, or through it but a brighter light is ahead.
*ROTL, or release on temporary licence, enables people in prison to take part in activities outside of prison during their sentence.
** The DBS, or Disclosure and Barring Service, is the criminal record checking service. A clean DBS refers to a check that shows no convictions.