Before contacting us…

Our helpline is run on limited charitable resources and can get extremely busy. To try and make the best use of our resources, we encourage people with a criminal record to try some way other ways before contacting us directly…

Is the answer on here?

We maintain this self-help information site as a way of people finding answers to questions for themselves. It’s easier for you (and us) if you find the answer to your question on here.

We have a full index on the information we have, and we also have a ‘top 10 things to know about criminal records‘ page, which covers the key areas that we receive a lot of questions about. These include:

Try our online forum


We run an online forum for people with convictions. It has many members (who themselves have a criminal record) that regularly give up their time in helping others who are looking for information or advice.

theForum has many questions and answers, or if you can’t find one that answers yours, you can post it and see if anyone has had a similar experience or can share any useful information/advice.

Contact details

We run a confidential peer-run helpline that supports people in overcoming the effects of criminal convictions (find about more about how the helpline works here).

There are a number of ways you can contact our helpline (and there are FAQ’s about the different ways of contacting us below)

Call: 01634 247350 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm)
Message: Text or WhatsApp us on 07824 113848. Find out more about using WhatsApp to message us.
Email: Fill out our online contact form
Online: Webchat (a pop-up will show when webchat is available)
Write: theHelpline, Unlock, Maidstone Community Support Centre, 39-48 Marsham Street, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1HH

Deaf and speech impaired callers can access our helpline via the Relay UK Service. Textphone users should prefix their call with 18001.

Current status of theHelpline – The helpline is open from 10am until 4pm, Monday to Friday.

If you’re feeling desperate and need to speak to someone outside of our opening hours, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 for the cost of a local call. You can also email them at

Details of other crisis services offering urgent support can be found here.

Who should contact us? We ask that individuals contact us directly if possible. If a family member or an organisation working with you contacts us on your behalf, we will normally ask to speak to you.

For more details about how our helpline works, and what issues we cover, click here.

Frequently asked questions about contacting us

Calling us

Our telephone line is normally open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. If there are any interruptions to our normal opening hours, a notice will be placed in the section above.

Please note: Our helpline is closed on public holidays (e.g. Bank Holidays) and over the Christmas break. The status bar above will be updated accordingly.

Outside of our normal opening times, enquiries can be made by email, online, text, WhatsApp or letter. If your enquiry is urgent, please call theHelpline when it’s open.

We promise to respond to every enquiry that we receive. We try to respond to queries as soon as possible, and are normally able to do so within 5 working days, but sometimes this might be longer if we’re busy.

In the meantime, you may find the answer to your question on this self-help information site. In particular, check out our quick links section which has answers to some of the most common questions we get. Or you might find the answer on our online forum.

We’re just a phone call away and because it’s just a phone call, you’re in total control of what’s happening – you can end the call at any time, and no one needs to know who you are, or where you’re calling from, unless you want them to.

If you’re calling us, you can dial 141 before you dial our number. This will hide your number (please check with your network providers as this doesn’t work on some mobile networks.

Our number will appear on your itemised bill – if someone else will see your telephone bill and you don’t want them to know you’ve called us, you may prefer to use a public telephone or pay-as-you-go mobile. 

We have a voicemail system so that you can leave us a message. If you would like us to call you back, please leave your name, number and brief message after the tone. If possible, please provide us with a landline number and the best time to get hold of you.  If you only have a mobile, we will ask you to ring us back when we return your call.
We don’t generally record calls. However, we occasionally undertake evaluations. If this is the case, we will always give you the opportunity to opt out of taking part.
As a small team, there may be times when we’re open when you can’t get through because we’re busy dealing with other enquiries. You may find the answer to your question using the links at the top of this page. Otherwise, please leave us a message (your contact details are confidential), or contact us in another way (e.g. by email) and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Taking a name for you helps us to keep a note of the people that we’re helping. It will be linked to your particular call/enquiry, as part of our case management system. This helps, for example, if you contact us again, as we can link your contacts and make sure we’re providing the best support possible. It also helps us to follow up with you in certain circumstances to see how you’ve got on. We do not share your details externally.
If there is a lot of information to take in, then it may be beneficial to record the call for your own personal use. Any recording or information should not be passed on to a third party without our consent.
Our helpline is manned by trained advisors – a combination of volunteers and staff, all of whom have a criminal record. Volunteer advisors are always supported by a member of staff.

Emailing us

If you email us or send us an online enquiry, please provide us with enough information to give you accurate information or advice. If you call, it’s likely we’ll ask for this information, so please be prepared. Any details you share will be held confidentially, and you don’t have to give us any information that you’d rather not disclose, but this may limit how we can help.

The details you might want to include in your enquiry are:

  • Your name
  • A contact telephone number
  • An email address (if you have one)
  • Whether your contacting about yourself, a family member/friend, or somebody you’re working with
  • The details of your criminal record
  • The specific question that you have
  • Any relevant background information (including how you have tried to resolve the problem so far)
  • Whether there’s anything in particular that you would like us to do to support you with in regards to this situation
  • Any accompanying information (e.g. copies of letters, documents etc) – please do not send originals as we’re unable to return these.
We promise to respond to every enquiry that we receive. We try to respond to queries as soon as possible, and are normally able to do so within 5 working days, but sometimes this might be longer if we’re busy. If your enquiry is urgent, please call our helpline during opening hours.

Texting us or contacting us by WhatsApp

You can now get advice by sending us a WhatsApp message to the number below.

Our WhatsApp number is: 07824 113848.

Copy this number and create/add us as a new contact. Before sending your first message, please check that you can see the Unlock logo as the profile picture.

By sending a message to this service you are confirming that you’re happy with the way we’ll collect, store and protect your personal information. You can can find further details here.

Please send us a message containing a brief outline of the problem. One of our advisors will respond to you during theHelpline’s opening hours.

Contacting us by Skype

We are normally available on Skype during theHelpline’s opening hours, Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm.


Our focus is on helping people with convictions to overcome the problems they’re facing because of their criminal record. This includes providing information and advice on issues like disclosing to employers, criminal record checks, insurance and travel. More details on the issues we cover can be found here.

Where you have a problem but it’s not linked to you having a criminal record, we’ll try to point in the direction of other organisations that might be able to help.

Our helpline is primarily run via telephone and email. We’re not normally able to arrange face-to-face appointments, apart from in exceptional circumstances. All requests for face-to-face advice should initially go through our helpline. We are unable to see people who turn up at our office without a pre-booked appointment.
We understand that you might be reluctant to share your personal details with us. However, in order to make sure our advice is accurate, and so that we can follow up our advice with you, we will often ask for your personal details. Although there is no requirement for you to disclose your personal details to us, it does help us to do our job better, and sometimes we may be limited in what we can do without getting these details. Any information you disclose to us will be handled in line with our data protection policy. We do not share your details with others unless you give us your consent to do so.
The helpline is a charitably-funded service which is for people with convictions. We also deal with enquiries from friends and family on behalf of people with convictions. We help practitioners, such as probation officers, careers advisors and job centre workers, through providing other types of support and training. More details can be found on our main website.
We don’t have a formal referral process but we’re always happy for any organisation to signpost their clients to us. Further information can be found on our main website.
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