It is easy when thinking of any of the specific groups within Napo or society at large to assume that all members of a group will share the same views, characteristics and needs. This year’s women in Napo conference was designed to inspire women to become more active in Napo and in our communities.
The theme – All different, all together – aimed to recognise the wonderful differences between us while recognising that we do face some common challenges. In the next issue of Napo News we will be printing write ups from the various workshops as well as reactions to the different speakers. For now I wanted to give my thoughts on the day.
I remain passionate about Women in Napo and was delighted to be part of the organising group for this year’s conference. We were very mindful that this would be the first national event since the share sale and that Napo members across the country are feeling a range of emotions about the new world in which we find ourselves. We wanted to explore some of the issues that women face in society as well as in our professional lives. We also wanted to make the conference relevant for members in Probation and in the Family Court Section. I hope that we achieved this.
Initial feedback indicates that other delegates were as impressed with the speakers as I was. Our Co-Chair Chris Winters opened the conference by describing the history and context of Women in Napo and welcoming all to Yorkshire. Phyllis Opoku-Gyimah from the PCS inspired us to be more active and to fight against any attempts to stifle Trade Unions. She also reminded us to consider intersectionality within diversity strands.
Hillary Barrett from Cafcass gave us an insight into being a woman leader in her organisation and encouraged us to consider our work as important, whatever level we work at. She reminded us that we all have value.
Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham made a passionate speech in which she praised Napo for our opposition to TR and apologised for the fact that the fight was lost. She then spoke about Child Sexual Exploitation and made a plea for all agencies to work with her to find solutions to the issues which face young people, particularly young women. Sarah’s moving speech reminded us that many of the issues facing women begin in childhood and that we all need to work to make our society more equal and less oppressive.
Lynda Marginson, NPS Deputy Director for the North East concluded the morning session by speaking about her career in Probation, including the choices she made and the voices that influenced her. Lynda’s inspiring speech also covered her decision to take the NPS Deputy Director role and her hopes for the future. Lastly Lynda picked up on Sarah’s topic of Child Sexual Exploitation and the role that Probation has in addressing this.
In the afternoon, after attending workshops, we heard an interesting panel debate on maintaining professional standards in outsourced services, Chaired by Jay Barlow, Napo Vice Chair for the Family Court Section. Sue Hall, Director of the Probation Institute (PI) and former Chair of the Probation Chiefs Association and Chief of West Yorkshire Probation Trust made the first opening statement and discussed the role she feels that the PI has in promoting professionalism.
Professor Gill Kirton from Queen Mary University discussed some of the initial findings from her research and the concerns around potential depression of terms and conditions and the link to de-professionalising a workforce. Yvonne Pattison, Napo Co-Chair spoke about Napo’s role in maintaining standards and challenging these risks.
Finally Alison Lowe of Touchstone spoke about how she manages professional standards in an organisation which works with Probation and other partners in the realm of mental health. After a series of questions that provoked both debate and thought amongst many delegates I spoke to afterwards I was called on to close the conference.
During my closing remarks I thanked the planning group and Napo staff for making the conference a success as well as the speakers and workshop leaders for inspiring us. I also thanked the 95 or so delegates who had travelled from across the country to join us. I also spoke about where to go next and how Women in Napo should progress from here.
I asked all of the delegates to speak to women in their workplace about getting more involved in Napo and what they could do locally. I also asked for a branch to volunteer to host the next Women in Napo conference in 2017, it’s a fantastic event to be part of!
Finally I shared what I have got out of the event. I took away two actions, to collate all of the learning from the day around increasing women’s participation in Napo (more on that in the next article) and to make Napo more accessible. The second action may take some time and will need support from others but should benefit all members in the longer term.