The Forum Conference

After a brief hiatus, the PSO Conference has returned. Rebranded as The Forum, the biennial conference is now open to anyone employed in probation grades one to three.

The inaugural conference under the new arrangements was held on 24 November in London at the NUT headquarters in the marvellous Mabeldon Hall. In the morning session, we heard from a number of expert keynote speakers: Helen Schofield from the Probation Institute; Yannick MacKenzie from the National Probation Service (NPS); and our very own, Ian Lawrence general secretary at Napo.  Each of the keynote speakers gave an engaging strategic overview on the current situation in probation from the perspective of their respective organisations.

Helen Scholfield is the current acting chief executive at the Probation Institute.  Helen is no stranger to Napo as she has been both a national officer and national official of the union with a responsibility for professional practice and training. In her speech, Helen raised the importance of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) as the means by which professionals maintain and enhance their knowledge and skills.  She also made the case that a regulatory structure should be aligned to a Probation Register and made the case for the need for a register and a Licence to Practice.

Yannick Mackenzie is a deputy director at the NPS responsible for delivering effective probation practice that is recognised as high quality. Yannick was instrumental in setting up and implementing the E3 (Effectiveness, Efficiency and Excellence) operating model for the NPS.  Yannick focussed his contribution on the important role of PSO and admin roles in the NPS and the training opportunities available with a particular emphasis on admin roles.

Ian Lawrence as the final keynote speaker gave a rousing speech about the many problems across the probation landscape and putting forward what Napo is doing to address the issues and making the point that the taxpayer cannot be asked to continuously fund failure.  He argued that because of Transforming Rehabilitation probation training and professional standards are seriously suffering, with major concerns about the effectiveness of training, how accessible it is, and whether the perennial quest for cost savings has overridden quality.  He set out that Napo supports a national license to practice to combat the threat of becoming “de-professionalised”.

Immediately following the keynote speakers, the conference moved onto the panel discussion. The panel consisted of: Julia Summerfield, chief operating officer, LAURUS Development; Catherine Fuller, head of professional skills and recognition, NPS; Alex Osler, director Essex CRC (Sodexo); and Katie Lomas, national vice chair, Napo.

Each of the panellists gave a five-minute presentation on the discussion topic “professional training in a changing landscape.”  This was followed by a lively discussion with a number of questions from the floor on some of the key challenges for frontline practitioners taking up training opportunities.

Two of the key themes that arose from the discussion concerned the restrictive nature of the PQiP qualification and that it was not open to all job roles and the inadequate learning time and protective caseloads that has historically been given to learners on probation training.

After lunch the conference broke out in to workshops.  There were three workshops covering the issues of role boundaries; applying for the PQiP and dealing with stress at work.

Katie Lomas and Ikki Bhogal (NEC black rep) were the facilitators for the role boundaries workshop.  They looked at the current situation in probation across both the NPS and CRCs and put this into context with the Napo role boundaries guidance and the reality of frontline practitioners’ experiences.  The workshop provided the first opportunity to review and look to update the role boundaries document post TR.  The findings from the workshop will be taken up by Napo’s professional and training committee so that it can inform the review of the Napo role boundaries documents and be updated accordingly.

Given the current situation regarding workloads across both the NPS and CRCs, Thompsons Solicitors gave a timely briefing on stress at work and the legal remedies available to members either via a personal injury at work claim or a discrimination employment law claim based on the Equality Act 2010.  The briefing covered the legal framework and the conditions that must be met to pursue a successful claim through the courts.  It also gave members advice on what action to take to protect themselves at work.

The final workshop was delivered by Sheetal Moore and David Fallows from the National Probation Service.  They looked at the recruitment process for PSO and PO roles and what learning and development pathways are available for PSO and PO roles.  The workshop provided an opportunity for members to familiarise themselves with the competency based approach used in the recruitment process and better understand how the assessment centre process works and how the training is delivered.

The feedback from members at the conference was overwhelmingly positive. Napo would like to thank all the speakers and the members who gave up their time to be at the conference and for making the event the success that it was.  These events are important because it provides a space for reflection and discussion on the issues that are important to members.  The Napo Forum meetings and the Forum Conference are essential to achieving this aim.  Going forward we still have a lot of work to do including reaching out to admin members and encouraging them to attend Napo events.

If you are a PSO or an admin member then The Forum is the place for you to raise the issues that you think are important. If you would like to get involved, please get in touch with me at rsingh@napo.org.uk .  Make sure your voice is heard look out for dates of future meetings and please come along and join the conversation!

Ranjit Singh
National Official

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