the record

Man banned from volunteering at project he helped set up

Hero image

A man who was banned from volunteering at a youth project he helped set up is still waiting for answers, a year on.

Last September, Steve Kenyon was asked by Cheshire East Council to leave a community centre on Crewe’s Leighton Park estate, after an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check revealed spent convictions, including drug dealing and theft.

This abruptly ended his involvement in both Crewe West Community Group – where he was vice secretary – and Upzone, the young person’s group he helped to found. Upzone had just received £12,000-worth of funds from the Big Lottery Awards and the Fire Service.

A bad crowd

A former psychiatric nurse, Kenyon was out of work when he started mixing with what he admits was a bad crowd.

When a friend asked him to get some cocaine he did so, but he was caught and ended up with a prison sentence of almost three years. Now married with two children, he has never hidden his past but hoped he could use his poetry and music skills to give something back to the community.

“I was devastated as I had pinned a lot of hopes on doing something positive,” he said. “I want to see this overturned so I can go back to doing voluntary work.”

Kenyon asked the council to reconsider its decision, but it was only when The Big Issue in the North covered the story in June that the local authority wrote to him.

In the letter, area partnerships manager Claire Wilson said: “[The] offences of dishonesty and violence are relevant to working with vulnerable children and adults, the offences are serious and whilst they do not necessarily show a pattern of offending neither do they necessarily point to a rehabilitated individual.”

Not unique

Believing there was little point in further correspondence, Kenyon says he rang the council requesting they put in writing how long he is banned for and the exact reasons why. Meanwhile he has busied himself as a volunteer in a film designed to improve travel facilities for West Midlands disabled people.

Cheshire East Council is unable to discuss individual cases, but a spokesman said: “We have a statutory duty to ensure people are not put at risk. We take this responsibility very seriously. We are unable to discuss the details of individual cases. We will be writing to Mr Kenyon shortly to inform him of the outcome of the risk assessment.”

Kenyon’s experience is far from unique. In a similar case, Leeds man Raymond Lunn, 37, put years of teen crime behind him following a three-year prison term and quickly found a job in sales – excelling over the next decade and winning promotions and well-paid work.

But when Lunn decided to tell his employer about his past he was sacked. When he then failed to get an interview for more than 50 vacancies, it became clear that honesty about his convictions was harming his career.

Scrap heap

Lunn’s case is one of dozens highlighted by crime reduction charity NACRO, which wants employers to give former criminals a second chance. Its says three in five people list a past conviction as one of the things they would be most embarrassed to tell their employers about.

A NACRO spokesperson said: “Lunn’s case is fairly typical of the prejudices ex-prisoners, trying to rehabilitate themselves, are forced to endure. We have a helpline that takes thousands of calls on this each year. Society is throwing good people with valuable skills on the scrap heap.”

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Changing the record

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.