PR & press

Many organisations in the third sector rely on public and grant fundraising, or grants from government departments. This can mean that organisations feel pressure to manage the public perceptions of their charities.

Concerns about the impact of negative coverage is sometimes cited as a reason for not recruiting people with criminal records. In fact, negative coverage happens very rarely and is often construed as a bigger threat than it is in reality. There are a number of protective measures that you can put in place to alleviate any concerns, which will ultimately be beneficial for your organisation whether you face any challenges or not.

Some approaches to responding to or managing any difficult press or social media attention will be covered by existing policies you have in place. An example could be where a member of a team is found to be sharing details about another team members’ criminal record online. This could be dealt with under staff social media policies, or bullying/ harassment policies. Consider the following three areas to prepare for any concerns you have:

Understand how your charitable aims align with Fair Chance Recruitment principles

Criminal records are an intersectional issue. There is a huge amount of evidence demonstrating disproportionate outcomes for people with certain characteristics at all stages of the criminal justice system. This may mean that making your approach to criminal records fairer will also make systems fairer for those whom your charity aims to support.

It should be clear how Fair Chance Recruitment principles align with your charitable aims, or serve your beneficiaries. For example:

  • We support survivors of domestic abuse. It’s important to us that our organisation is survivor-led. We know that people with experience of domestic abuse are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. As such, we embed Fair Chance Recruitment Principles to ensure we aren’t placing unnecessary barriers to joining our organisation.
  • Our organisation focuses on community solutions to community problems. We view access to good, stable and purposeful employment as a key way to elevate our community. We know that local organisations look to us as an example of good governance and outreach, so we have embedded Fair Chance Recruitment principles to model good practice and increase opportunities for employment in our locality.

Underpin your Fair Chance Recruitment principles with strong internal policies and understanding

Well-developed and consistent approaches to criminal records will support your preparedness for any potentially challenging press. One benefit of thinking through any potential challenges in advance will mean that your systems and processes are robust, regardless of whether you eventually face any negative coverage.

This will include ensuring you have a clear policy in place on the management of criminal records. Take a look at our policy builder page if you haven’t got this in place already. Having a clear policy will mean you are able to respond to any questions concisely and confidently.

It’s important to ensure that any policies you implement are disseminated and that relevant staff understand them and receive appropriate training. This will ensure that the process you design is observed by everyone. You’ll see from other parts of our site that there are numerous reasons why you might not ask about criminal records. There are countless other scenarios in which asking about criminal records is unlikely to protect you from risk.

This means that you will be far better placed to respond to any challenges by explaining the other, more effective ways that you have managed risk. This could involve safeguarding policies, staff training, record keeping, supervision, CCTV, or any other protective measures that you have in place. It’s important to challenge the misconception that people with criminal records pose an inherent risk. Thoughtful, holistic and evidence-based measures for protecting your organisation are going to have a greater impact that ticking a yes/no box about criminal records. Part of your PR strategy should involve being ready to explain this confidently to enquirers.

It’s likely that you’ll never have to answer the kind of questions that cause concern. But being prepared either way can ensure that you feel confident in making your recruitment more inclusive.


Develop a PR strategy that accounts for negative coverage and how to respond to it

This last step may come naturally once the first two are completed. Negative press attention, or difficult questions from funders, can happen whether you have implemented these principles or not. Ensuring that you have a strong understanding of your approach and the reasons for it means you will be better prepared to respond to any challenges.

Some organisations like to prepare a simple statement in response to an imaginary challenge. This might be in preparation for a staff member asking questions about another, or in preparation for a news story. Having something ready, and knowing that relevant staff members have access to it, can help avoid a panic. If you would like to see some examples of these statements, contact

Funders and partners are always looking for innovative and demonstrable approaches to inclusivity within the charity sector. They may not have previously considered people with criminal records as an important group for this work. Laying the case out clearly, as with any other aspect of reporting, may encourage them to support you in this work.


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