If you're worried that a criminal record might make it harder for you to get a job or a place on a course, there are laws to prevent discrimination against offenders and ex-offenders.

According to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, criminal convictions and cautions can be ‘spent’ after a certain period, so you would not have to tell employers about them and it would be illegal for an employer to discriminate against you on the grounds of a spent conviction.

Some serious convictions are never spent and some kinds of employment (including work with children, old or sick people) are exempt from the Act and you would be expected to declare both spent and unspent convictions.

For certain types of job, employers (and voluntary organisations) can check with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which carries out criminal record checks through police records.

A standard DBS check includes spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings. An enhanced check includes any relevant additional information held by local police if the applicant will be working with children or adults specifically, or potentially both.

It is against the law to refuse someone a job on the grounds of a spent conviction or caution, unless it’s because a DBS check shows that they arere unsuitable.

For more information, visit the GOV.UK website.

Further and higher education

You may be asked about your criminal record when applying for further education courses. For some courses (for example, childcare or elderly care) it's important to ask whether or not your criminal record is relevant before you enrol. Your college or Connexions Personal Adviser can help.

For most higher education courses it is unnecessary to declare minor offences or spent convictions. For certain courses (including those in teaching, social work and the health professions) you must declare all criminal convictions, including those that are spent. Check with UCAS or your chosen university to find out more.

Work-based learning

Unemployed ex-offenders may be eligible for early entry to Government-funded training programmes. For more information, contact Jobcentre Plus or your Connexions Personal Adviser.

For further information

Nacro works with disadvantaged people, offenders and those at risk of offending, to help them find positive alternatives to crime. Nacro offers training for offenders and ex-offenders in basic skills and a wide range of vocational areas. Call the Nacro Helpline on 020 7840 6464.

The Longford Trust offers scholarships worth up to £5,000 per year to ex-prisoners to enable them to undertake higher education courses. Each scholar is assigned a mentor to offer practical and emotional advice. For more information, visit the Longford Trust website