The Women in Napo conference always aims to inspire women to become more involved in their union and this year was no different.
The conference was attended by probation and family court members alike proving that wherever you work, we are all part of the Napo family.
Members arriving the night before the conference watched “Going Through the Change”, a film featuring local activist Brenda Proctor highlighting the activism of women during and since the Miners’ Strike. Incredibly moving and empowering, it set the tone for the following day.
The morning session saw Carolyn Harris MP make a passionate speech about the impact incarcerating women has on their families and wider society. Attendees also gave examples of the damage they have seen when a woman is imprisoned for as little as a few weeks for relatively trivial offending such as non-payment of fines or shoplifting.
At 11am we paused to honour the life of Jo Cox with a minute’s silence that was broken with rapturous applause to celebrate the impact Jo continues to have even after her tragic death.
Carolyn – who was a friend of Jo’s – highlighted the need for women to continue to work together to campaign for tolerance and love despite a world intent on hate and destruction.
Next to speak was Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Dame Glenys spoke about the recent thematic inspection on women which highlighted some issues of deterioration in service provision since the outsourcing of probation through the TR programme.
Subsequent inspections have shown some improvements, however, gender specific services provided in conjunction with local women’s centres have suffered due to changes in funding and some women’s centres have closed or face an uncertain future.
More of a concern was a lack of strategy for women’s services across the probation providers and the risk that funding will be further reduced if these services are not prioritised consistently.
We had four workshops for attendees to choose from, repeated to allow everyone chance to attend two.
Emma Pearmaine from Simpson Millar spoke passionately about the need to protect vulnerable witnesses and support victims of domestic abuse in court.
Joy Doal of Anawim (a women’s centre in Birmingham) spoke about their approach to trauma in diversion from the criminal justice system. Joy also spoke of the challenges that women’s centres faced as a result of TR and funding changes and how many of the services they were providing in conjunction with probation have ended.
Rachel Goldhill of the University of Plymouth presented her research which evidences that post TR much of the specialist gender specific provision for women has been lost.
Sarah Friday (Napo national official), Jay Barlow (Napo national vice chair for the family court section) and I encouraged women attending to explore reasons why women are not as active in Napo as they could be and to share good practice in encouraging women to join and become active.
Women attending this workshop were asked to make two pledges at the end, one thing they would do to recruit a woman member and one thing they would do to encourage activism either from themselves or in another woman.
The final session of the day was a panel discussion on women’s occupational health. Professor Myra Hunter of King’s College London presented findings from the 2016 survey of Napo members which focussed on premenstrual and menopausal experiences. The discussions around menopause were thought provoking and we look forward to the recommendations from Myra’s research which branches should be able to use with employers to secure improvements.
Janet Newsham of the Manchester Hazards Centre spoke about the specific issues facing women in terms of health and safety at work.
Finally, Sarah Friday of Napo discussed using the TUC checklist of gender and occupational health and safety to challenge employers. The issues of women’s health and safety were of clear interest to members and we could have had a full day on that topic alone.
A session was held where attendees discussed priorities for WiN which was very useful and highlighted a few areas to focus on.
One of these topics of focus was women’s health and safety in the workplace and the effects of ageing – topics touched on in the afternoon and by Carolyn Harris MP.
There was also an acknowledgement that the introduction of a new sickness policy in the NPS and some CRCs was having an impact on women, especially as they aged, attending vital health screening appointments.
It was inspiring to see so many women come together with a shared goal of being more active in Napo, I hope everyone went home with the same spark of motivation that I did.
Women in Napo Pledges
During a workshop led by Sarah Friday, Katie Lomas and Jay Barlow, members came up with some pledges around recruiting women members and increasing activism
Recruiting women members – I will…
- Actively promote Napo to women not already in membership including PQiP learners, trainees, mentees and new starters
- Liaise with my branch chair and arrange a local office meeting to recruit new members
- Contact Napo HQ for posters and other promotional materials that can be used to help recruit new members
Increasing Activism – I will…
- Increase Napo’s visibility by putting up noticeboards and wearing or displaying branded Napo merchandise – particularly when participating in Napo activities
- Prioritise attendance at local and national meetings and encourage other women members to do the same
- Ask branch to appoint a youth officer who can help recruit younger women