Information: Relationships, children and dealing with social services

Aim of this page

This information is designed to set out what you may need to consider if you have been convicted of a sexual offence and are looking to start a new relationship. It also looks at how social services may become involved in any new or existing relationship.

Why is this important?

If you have been convicted of a sexual offence, then you will naturally be concerned about disclosing this to a new partner, especially if your partner has children.

Many people with sexual or violent offences will be managed by the police, probation, prison and other professionals in order to protect the public from harm. These arrangements are referred to as MAPPA. As a result of this, the police or probation may chose to share details of your conviction with some of the following organisations:

  • Local authorities
  • Social services
  • Housing providers
  • Children’s services
  • Employers
  • Health services

If the police/probation choose to make a disclosure, then this could potentially have an impact on a new or existing partner, for example if they are working with children or have children of their own.

Its important to recognise that the police/probation may insist that you disclose your conviction to a new partner (or threaten to do it for you). This may also result in social services and/or other organisations becoming involved. Having an awareness of this will hopefully prepare you for dealing with them if, and when, they occur.

Starting a new relationship

For many people, getting a job, somewhere to live and starting a new relationship can all be seen as positive ways of moving on with life following a conviction. However, for anybody who has been convicted of a sexual offence, meeting somebody new can provide additional difficulties.

If you are on licence, you may find that additional conditions are added to it if you are convicted of a sexual offence. For example:

  • To tell your supervising officer if you start a new relationship.
  • To tell your supervising officer if you start a new relationship where the person resides in a house with someone under the age of 18.

If you are subject to notification requirements, you will also need to:

  • Notify the police where you are living in a household with a child under the age of 18. You will also be required to notify when residing or staying in a relevant household for a period of at least 12 hours with a child who is under the age of 18.

If you have any of the above restrictions, or if the police/probation believe that your new partner could be in any way vulnerable, then they will insist that you disclose your conviction to your new partner.

A good probation/public protection officer will give you an opportunity to do this for yourself. However, the time period they give is likely be to week’s rather than months. There is every chance that either the police or your probation officer will require clarification from your new partner that you have disclosed and what you’ve disclosed. It’s therefore in your best interest to be as up front and honest as you can.

Disclosing your conviction to a new partner

Telling somebody about your past can be hard. You may be worried that your new partner will judge you, lose respect for you or put an end to the relationship. Many people who have been convicted of a sexual offence will have no option but to disclose this to a partner, for fear of them finding out some other way. How you disclose will depend on the type of person you are. However there are some things that you may want to consider beforehand.

Tell the story to yourself first. Think about the who, what, where, when, how and why it happened.
Think about the circumstances at the time of the offence. Explain any events that led up to the incident and, more importantly, explain what you’ve done since.
Think about why you are telling your partner now and what impact it might have on them. For example, the possible involvement of social services if they have children.
Don’t immediately leap to the worst case scenario. Imagine step by step what might happen and how you could respond to anything that comes up.
Practice telling your story from beginning to end but don’t be tempted to write a script. You can’t assume how your partner will react so you have to keep the lines of communication open. It might be an idea to practice with somebody who knows the situation.
Meet at a time and place where you can focus entirely on each other. It’s always a good idea to tell your partner when they have time to digest the information, for example a Friday evening when they have the weekend to think about what you’ve told them.
This will certainly be the case if you feel you may have misled your partner in some way by not telling them earlier.
If you feel remorse, show it.
Be prepared for a bad reaction. You partner may shout, cry or be silent. It will probably come as a shock to then. People don’t always mean what they say in situations like this.
Questions from your partner may bring back unpleasant memories but try to answer as best you can. If you find it difficult to talk about, explain this.
Disclosing that you have a criminal record won’t necessarily be the end of the relationship. However, have realistic expectations and give your partner time and space to come to terms with what you’ve told them.

Starting a new relationship if your partner has children

When it becomes known that a person subject to the sex offence notification requirements (on the sex offenders’ register) is sharing the household or, has significant contact with children, then there is every likelihood that children’s services will become involved.

If this is the case, then children’s services will usually wish to carry out a risk assessment under Section 47 of the Children’s Act 1989. The child’s parent/carer will be told of the concerns held and, if it is appropriate, a child protection conference and/or legal proceedings may result.

What would a risk assessment involve?

Risk assessments are undertaken to evaluate:

  • The frequency and extent of your past offending behaviour
  • The level of danger that professional agencies have attributed to you in the past
  • The likely risk to current, future and potential victims
  • Your motivation to change or control your offending behaviour
  • Details of any intervention programmes that you have undertaken.

In addition, an assessment will be made of:

  • Your partner’s willingness and capacity to protect their children
  • Any risk posed to other members of the household or the extended family
  • Any risk posed to members of the wider community.

It is possible that any findings will be shared with other agencies (for example health care professionals, schools etc).

The process can be extremely intrusive and difficult and we have heard of situations where children’s services have threatened to take children into care if a man/woman refuses to break off their relationship with somebody who is on the sex offenders’ register.

Returning to your own family following a conviction for a sexual offence

If you are already a parent at the time you receive a conviction for a sexual offence, then there is a chance that there will be some involvement with children’s services, even if the offence was nothing to do with your own child. A risk assessment may be needed before you will be allowed any unsupervised contact, overnight stays or a return to the family home.

Social workers will be keen to speak to all members of the family together and also separately to ensure that:

  • You want to reintegrate with your family
  • Your family are happy for you to return to the family home and are not being coerced into agreeing to it
  • Key issues surrounding your offending behaviour have been addressed

Having a family of your own

All the time you are on the sex offenders’ register, you stand a good chance of there being some involvement with children’s services if you chose to start a family of your own. Once you come off the register, you should be treated no differently to any other couple looking to start their own family.

Child protection procedures

If children’s services believe that a child may be at risk of harm, they will try to establish what kind of assessment (if any) needs to be carried out and whether they should start a child protection enquiry. The aim of a child protection enquiry is to gather information about a child’s circumstances and decide whether any action is needed to keep them safe and well cared for.

If an enquiry demonstrates that there is no risk of harm to a child, then no further action will be taken. If children’s services feel that the family may benefit from additional support, then they may put some monitoring measures in place. This could be for example, ensuring that a child is never left unsupervised with the person who has a conviction for a sexual offence.

If it is believed that a child is, or is likely to be, suffering significant harm, then an initial child protection case conference will be arranged.

Challenging decisions and making a complaint

Parents, people caring for children, family members who are involved with a child and sometimes children themselves can make a complaint about a decision made by children’s services.

Complaints can be made about:

  • Any of the decisions of or services provided by a social worker or children’s services and
  • Not getting the services or help you or your child needs.

How do you make a complaint?

You can make a complaint by:

  • Arranging a face to face meeting with your designated social worker and discussing your complaint with them. Always follow up what you’ve discussed in writing so that you have a record of it
  • Completing the local authorities online complaints form
  • Writing to or emailing the children’s services complaints department.

In any complaint you should:

  • Put all your issues in one letter rather than writing lots of separate letters as this may come across as you being an habitual complainer
  • Keep your complaint as clear and brief as possible
  • Make sure you explain clearly what you believe Children’s Services has done wrong, how it has affected your child and what you would ideally like them to do to put things right
  • Keep a copy of the complaint and other relevant information relating to it.

What other ways could my new partner be affected by my offence?

Disqualification by association

If you are convicted of a sexual offence against a child, then anybody who lives in the same household as you could be disqualified from working in some jobs with children up to the age of eight. We have more information about disqualification by association.

Personal experiences

The personal story below has been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Lucy Faithfull Foundation – A child protection charity working with people with convictions for sexual offences
  • Family Rights Group – A charity working with parents in England and Wales who have children in need, at risk or are in the care system

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on sexual offences
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the tag sexual offences
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord.
This page was last fully reviewed in December 2016. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating please let us know by emailing advice@unlock.org.uk or completing a feedback form.