NAPO Probation conference 2021 / Day 1

Thursday 14th October 2021

Napo conference 2021 at Newcastle Civic Centre

Napo conference is about much more than the formal business that is conducted. For me, it begins the night before I travel to where the conference is taking place. Last year was the exception as it was an online-only event.

Most of my time on the train is spent reading the annual report and the accounts. Due to many of us working remotely from home information that may have been gleaned in what we previously knew as normal got lost.

We purchased a new home after the sale of our former premises four or so years ago. That signals stability in the future and saving in rental costs of what was our temporary home.

Newcastle seemed a welcoming city as I tried to locate the civic centre from the hotel. The venue was more hotel than our usual conference hall and chairs complied with social distancing.

The speeches began to indicate what may have been felt as an individual concern was more widely felt. Concern was expressed about the inability to retain officers in training and once qualified. The main reason voiced being the demands placed on staff in other words too much work. Stories were told of longer-term staff deciding they too could bear no longer the demands leaving some offices with a skeleton staff.

Kit Malthouse as the newly appointed government minister for Probation appeared via zoom on the large screen. I struggle with getting my head around a huge organisation so I have sympathy for someone who is appointed to oversee it on behalf of the public. He acknowledged the public sector pay freeze and the tension it is raising for Napo members. He emphasised Probation as a key partner in crime reduction. He spoke as it seems do many as the future hope in Information Technology in the form of sobriety bracelets and GPS tagging.

Liz Saville Roberts MP Co-chair of Justice Unions Parliamentary Group surprised me by stating that Wales has the highest number of people in prison (per population) in Western Europe. She reminded us of the need for integration between local authorities and the release of homeless prisoners, without a stable home the chances of securing a stable life are severely reduced.

Conference provides the space for members to bring their concerns to us all in the form of motions. Two moved yesterday concerned the pay freeze and the need for a Probation Service independent of the Civil Service and connected to local communities.

With day one concluded the evening provided an opportunity to enjoy Italian food in good company.

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Writing as a Napo member