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Do you have trustees or senior staff with previous convictions?

Next summer will see the final piece of legislation of the Charities Act 2016 come into force, meaning people with certain convictions are disqualified from working as senior managers, financial directors or volunteering as trustees in charities across England and Wales unless a waiver is applied for and granted by the Charity Commission.

Many charities that have employed or recruited volunteers as trustees, senior leaders or financial directors will need to be aware that the impending changes may force charities to ‘let people go’ if their people are in roles that fall within certain categories of disqualification based upon spent and/or unspent previous convictions.

In such cases charities are being asked to review its personnel and where relevant, require individuals to apply to the Charity Commission for a waiver. If the waiver is granted those individuals will be permitted to continue in their roles. If individuals do have one of the convictions which disqualify them they are not permitted to continue in existing roles unless or until a waiver is granted.

Offences in question include:

  • Dishonesty
  • Deception
  • Fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Terrorism
  • Sexual offences

*Please note this list is not the complete list of offences included and the guidance around this legislation is not yet finalised


Many charities are not aware of the proposed changes or the process for waivers and are not prepared for the implications and consequences that could result from both police and the Charity Commission investigations.  Many charities have supported the rights of ex-offenders to move on and put their past convictions behind them. It is well documented that one of the most significant factors in reducing further offending is employment and a purposeful contribution to society.

Many charities have been established entirely by those with previous convictions to support those with convictions to get back on track with their life. More importantly, people who have experienced the criminal justice system have an important contribution to make to charities and the communities in which they operate. This legislation is extremely worrying for such charities and further, communicates a narrative about ex-offenders that works against the significant work these charities have achieved in championing this cause.

What can we do?

Unlock, a national charity founded by ex-offenders which supports offenders and employers around the legal aspects of employment, has been involved in campaigning around this proposed legislation since 2014. The charity has partnered with Clinks, a national infrastructure organisation supporting VCOs working within criminal justice to work with the Charities Commission on the detail of this legislation and its implications for individuals and the sector, to clarify the process for waiver applications and to develop guidance for charities. You can read a briefing with more detail.

Clinks and the Charity Commission are holding a short roundtable discussion to gather feedback from the sector on this issue. You can request engagement in this discussion.

If any of this has raised any concerns for you or you just want to get more information I would love to hear from you. Please do get in touch by email tracey.brittain@mvdauk.org.uk or telephone 07804238723.

Tracey Brittain is Senior Strategic Development Officer at MVDA and as part of her remit, she has responsibility for the Cleveland Safer Communities VCS Network.


Tracey Brittain


Senior Strategic Development Officer