How to deal with criminal convictions

A Social Work Union Guide

What is the legal position surrounding disclosure of convictions to employers?All social workers are legally required to disclose any spent or current criminal convictions, without exception. This differs from the requirements surrounding general members of the public, for whom different strictures will apply dependent on the nature of their employment. All social workers will be subject to an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, which will take into account some convictions that the standard CRB check will not uncover.

You will need to undergo a CRB check whenever you move jobs, and it will remain valid until you move to a new employer. The process can often be fairly lengthy and failure to disclose may well increase the possibility of delays. There have been cases when social workers have been unable to receive their agreed salaries and job titles until the full CRB check has been obtained.

I am a student, do I need to tell my university about convictions?
Again, we would always advise you to disclose any convictions to both your university and anyone who may be involved in your placement process. Ultimately, you will need to be registered if you wish to train as a social worker, so full disclosure will be required further down the line.

It is worth considering the developing concept of ‘appropriate conduct’, which is gradually being expanded in order that it covers aspects of a social worker’s life that they may not automatically consider to be relevant to their practice. With the advent of social networking the need to be hyper-aware of your conduct at all times is more important than ever.

The requirement to be as up-front as possible is illustrated by the case of a social worker who was pulled over by the police and breathalised. The reading showed him to be over the limit but further tests showed that the breathaliser was actually faulty and, subsequently, all charges were dropped and an apology was issued. Despite this, the social worker was still advised to declare the incident to his employer, which is why we would always urge a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach.

What ‘counts’ as a criminal conviction?
If you have been found guilty in any magistrates or crown court of any offence whatsoever then you should disclose it at the first possible opportunity. In most walks of life a caution does not count but if you undertake an enchanced CRB check then it will show up and should therefore be disclosed. Similarly, in most jobs motoring offences do not count, whereas social workers should advise their employers of anything of this nature.

I am worried about the consequences of disclosure, what will happen?
Each case will ultimately be judged on its own merit, but any offence involving children or bodily harm on an adult is likely to impact significantly on your ability to practise in the future. The final decision will rest with the registration sub-committee, which is required to both protect the public and uphold the good name of the social work profession.

Is there any way I might be reinstated?
If you are struck off, you are legally allowed to reapply for registration after five years. During this period you will have had to have demonstrated significant rehabilitation as well has having kept up-to-date with changes to legislation, professional development and the shifting employment culture.

Pragmatically speaking, the journey back can be a difficult one, though it is by no means impossible.
Enhanced CRB checks:

The enhanced CRB check is the highest level check available to those who are likely to be regularly caring, training, supervising or being in sole charge of children or vulnerable adults. It is also needed for certain licensing purposes or judicial appointments. The information for this check is the same as standard disclosure, but any other relevant information that the police hold about the applicant will also be disclosed. A Code of Practice has been put in place to protect your personal information and ensure it is handled fairly.

Published : 2nd January 2012*

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* Although BASW has prepared the information contained within Social Work Knowledge with all due care and updates the information regularly, BASW does not warrant or represent that the information is free from errors or omission. Whilst the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of the information. The information may change without notice and BASW is not in any way liable for the accuracy of any information printed and stored or in any way interpreted and used by a user.