Student accuses charity of bias after assault convictions scupper job offer

A social work student who had a job offer withdrawn after it
emerged she had a criminal record has accused her prospective
employer of discrimination.

Cherie-Ann Kerr, who has two assault convictions dating back six
years to a period when she was homeless and misusing drugs, was
offered a job at the charity Open Door in Livingston,

But the offer was withdrawn after the homelessness unit became
aware of her convictions.

“I was offered the job but, when they found out [about my past],
they left a message on my answering machine saying they would have
to withdraw it,” Kerr said. “They didn’t even give me the chance to
explain what had happened and show I had moved on.”

Kerr, a single mother of a five-year-old daughter, will finish a
three-year social care course in two months. The college had told
her “not to worry” about her convictions harming her job

“Had I known that I wouldn’t be able to get a job, I never would
have done the course,” Kerr said.

“I also feel that this attitude will affect my daughter’s life. If
I can’t get a decent job, she will be denied a good life.”

Kerr has now enlisted the help of the Apex Trust, a charity that
helps ex-offenders find work.

Professor of social policy at Brunel University Peter Beresford
said such problems were arising because the social care sector
needed a reliable and safe workforce but also wanted more user

He said more cases like Kerr’s would occur because of a “gross
insensitivity in failing to recognise that people grow and develop”
and a failure to acknowledge that people who had previously faced
problems had been rehabilitated.

“What should be seen as skills and values that these people can add
are, in fact, being used to exclude them,” Beresford said.

Open Door project manager Richard Amos said the job offer had not
been formal and that Kerr had failed to disclose important
information in her interview. He said the unit had acted according
to National Care Standards Commission regulations.

But a Department of Health spokesperson denied that the regulations
prevented employers from hiring people who had committed specific
criminal offences, and said such decisions should be made on a
case-by-case basis.

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