When Sarah Humphries began working for a training company which helped empower women, she felt like her life was finally coming together.
She took a job with the Growth Company in 2021, which is commissioned by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and offers training, education, and support to people across the city.
The 34-year-old from Chorlton loved her job, but several months in it was shattered after she learned that a co-worker had previously been convicted of sexual offences.
The man, who the M.E.N is not naming, worked on a programme run by the Growth Company, which involved him working directly with women in the city.
He had previously appeared in court having carried out a string of sexual offences against underage girls between the 1990s and early 2000s, including indecent assault and indecent exposure.
The man never received a custodial sentence and his conviction has since been spent. According to the government, this means it would not show on a basic criminal record and would only show up on a more detailed DBS check.
A spokesperson for the company said they take the safety and wellbeing of their clients and colleagues “seriously” and said the individual concerned no longer worked for the organisation.
The firm openly advertises that they operate a ‘Ban the Box’ policy, which means they don’t ask prospective employees to disclose previous convictions at the application stage.
Speaking to the M.E.N, Sarah said she was “horrified” when she discovered her co-worker's previous convictions, and subsequently decided to leave the company.
“I couldn’t work there,” she said. “Something completely snapped in my head. There were three or four days where I couldn’t even string a sentence together. I was devastated.
“When I realised I’d been working directly with this person I knew I couldn’t go back. I felt physically sick. Even when I talk about it now it makes me feel sick.
“I really enjoyed working there and felt like my life was finally coming together. I had a decent job with a reputable company that was interested in health and wellbeing and seemed to care about women in leadership.
“I felt betrayed. I felt like not only had my own personal safety been threatened but that unbeknown to me I had put other women at risk.”
Helen Calvert, a life coach from Manchester, was a former client of the Growth Company, but has since cut ties with the company after learning of the employee’s past convictions.
She had spent months promoting the programme, but earlier this year she penned a blog post about how she had to stop working with them.
“I joined the programme a couple of years ago and it’s a great scheme supporting self-employed people in Greater Manchester,” she said. “I learned a lot and I was so glad that I had done it. Many women in my network have.
“However, that all changed on 11 February when it came to my attention the company employs a convicted sex offender."
Speaking to the M.E.N, Helen said she felt “angry” and “disappointed” after learning that the employee had been working directly with women.
A spokesperson for the programme run by the Growth Company said: “We are aware of concerns raised in relation to one of our former employees, and understand the sensitivities given their nature. We have a duty of care to all our clients and colleagues and want to reassure everyone that we take their safety and wellbeing seriously.
“The programme is not aimed at vulnerable adults as defined by the Government, and DBS checks to understand previous criminal history are not undertaken as standard. Where clients inform us of vulnerabilities due to other factors, appropriate support is provided.
“We have a range of robust safeguarding measures and policies in place to actively assess and support clients who may have additional needs.
“We continually review our approach to ensure we support the safety and wellbeing of all our colleagues and clients, as well as support rehabilitation and comply with legal requirements regarding the employment of ex-offenders.”
A spokesperson for the GMCA, which encompasses the Mayor's Office, said: “The GMCA were first made aware of these complaints two weeks ago. Given the nature of this matter we engaged with the Growth Company, who run and employ staff for this contract, as soon as we were made aware.
“The Growth Company have given assurances that they are treating this issue with the utmost seriousness and urgency. While we await a further response from the Growth Company, we are unable to give any additional comment.”
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