We were kindly contacted by retired member, Keith Watson, to let us know of the sad death of another longstanding member, Joyce Belcher, on 21 May. Both Keith and Joyce were interviewed for Napo’s oral history of the union – Changing Lives – which was compiled by Harry Fletcher and Vicky Boroughs in 2007 to mark the centenary of the Probation Service.
Joyce became a probation officer in1950 and worked for the service until 1985, when she retired. She was a main grade officer throughout her career and was also membership secretary for Napo in Surrey.
Joyce told Changing Lives: ‘I was in the WAAF during the war. Towards the end colleagues were talking about what we were going to do when we were demobbed, what training we were going to have. I decided to go to Southampton and do a two year social studies certificate. First I worked in psychiatric social work, then a youth club. I also worked as a Moral Welfare Worker dealing with unmarried mothers. And then on term I worked with a probation officer in Farnham and I decided that was the thing’.
When she was first appointed she was based in West Cumberland, moving to Surrey after a couple of years and later working in Greater London. She told Napo: ‘In those days women supervised girls, females and little boys only. After boys became 12 they had to go to the male officers. We did matrimonial work. We did through-care work. We dealt with neighbours quarrels…We weren’t actually responsible for placing children for adoption but we did the Guardian Ad Litem work and also divorce court welfare’.
Keith and Joyce kept in touch with colleagues after retirement as part of what Keith described as a ‘Golden Oldies’ group. Sadly over the years numbers in the group dwindled, but Keith was still meeting up with Joyce every six weeks or so. Joyce remained active and continued to work in community through charity shops, the church and other organisations in her local area and was awarded a medal for being a ‘prize citizen’ by Farnham Borough Council. She will be sadly missed by all who knew her.