The national AGM and conference was held in Eastbourne 13th – 15th October 2022 and a contingent of Family Court Section members contributed to the quoracy. Despite our specific specialism and small size compared to the majority probation members, we ‘punched above our weight’.
Nicola Taylor-Ebong, National Vice Chair for the Family Court Section, acted as Chair for both the professional session and a further session and managed to be both firm, fair and good natured – no mean feat!
There was acknowledgement in the General Secretary’s annual address to AGM of the work of three long standing activists who have retired this year – Peter Brooks, Jay Barlow and Sue Hassall.
Contribution to Napo trade union business/policy.
Part of AGM business involves the debating of motions which go on to form Napo policy. Huge thanks to all Family Court Section members who voted in the ballot for motions which resulted in three of our motions being high in the ballot and were therefore debated.
The motions which were all voted for and passed related to:-
Napo supporting the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign – instructing Napo to support this.
Action against the erosion of Trade Union Rights – for Napo to push the TUC to co-ordinate action across Trade Unions and for this to be reviewed regularly.
To free Cafcass management from the shackles of the civil service pay restrictions and to enable them to make a pay award which will recognise the work of staff and promote retention and recruitment.
The professional slot was a joint slot with probation and focussed on children with parents in prison. The speakers included Sarah Burrows, CEO, Children Seen and Heard, a charity working with children who have a parent in prison. This was a fascinating and concerning presentation focussing on children’s experiences and their limited contact from services or support if there has been no previous agency involvement. The charity is very small and based in Oxford but the support services it offers are invaluable. See their website for more information – Who we are – Children Heard and Seen.
Jack Cordery, National Director of Operations, Cafcass also generated interest with his overview of his experience working as a Senior Probation Officer at a prison and his role in the development of a family visiting centres and his involvement in the Serious Case Review for Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. His message was never make assumptions about children’s experiences of their parents.
Sir Fred Ponsonby, Co-chair of the Parliamentary Justice Group and a sitting Magistrate and great friend of the Family Court Section, examined what he would want to consider and should be considered when sentencing defendants and the impact of this on families.
The ‘Question and Answer’ session was lively and interactive with concerns raised by probation members about their limited time/ability to investigate family circumstances and the acknowledgement that children’s experiences should be placed centrally, their pre-existing relationship with imprisoned parent considered and the trauma they may have experienced in the home as a result of their parent’s offending.
All agreed that a lack of resources significantly reduced the ability to deliver the service these children need.
There were a number of fringe meetings including Women in Napo; LGBTQI network; Representing Members and Health and Safety.
And of course, there’s always time to relax with Family Court Section friends in the local hostelry/restaurant or at the evening entertainment.
So, to those who have never attended, please put it in your diary for next year 19th-21st Oct 2023 at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham.
The Family Court Section offers financial support for members to attend.