I was elected in August and took office as national chair at AGM on 6 October. I’d like to introduce myself and, for those who missed it, explain why I stood for election to this role.
I am a probation officer based in West Yorkshire. Before becoming chair, I was a national vice chair for four years, and before that, I was an NEC rep and convenor for West Yorkshire branch during the TR campaign and industrial action.
I joined Napo shortly after I started as a trainee probation officer and became active after I needed Napo support myself. I came into probation after holding various jobs in retail management and recruitment but I had always been interested in the work of probation. My dad retired a few years ago after working in West Yorkshire as a probation officer and later in North Yorkshire as a senior probation officer.
Working with people is important to me and my passion for social justice led me to probation work as well as trade unionism and local politics.
I come from a large and close-knit Irish family and was brought up in a culture where everyone looked after each other, despite any differences we might have.
Any crisis, large or small and any positive event, large or small was cause to come together and offer support and/or celebration. We all stand up for each other and even though we might disagree initially once a decision is made we all stick with it. None of us is more or less important than any other.
This culture of support, being there for each other, and celebrating each other’s differences has served me well in my career in probation and in trade unionism. When I was first elected as vice chair I read an interview with Frances O’Grady (general secretary of the TUC) in which she described being brought up in an Irish family as excellent preparation for trade unionism and I wholeheartedly agree with her.
I stood for election as national chair because I wanted to continue some of the work I had started as vice chair, and because I think I can make a difference for our members.
We are a trade union and professional association and it is vital to have practitioners voices heard in all that we do. One of the things that members often say is that they don’t know what Napo is doing. I hope that the increased focus on communications from Napo has helped this but we also need to find better ways to have interactive conversations rather than just reporting what is happening.
The traditional method of branch meetings has become more difficult due to new ways of working, remote working, flexible hours, excessive workloads and limits on facility time. I am determined to ensure that we give members better ways to communicate with Napo leadership and with each other within Napo.
There are many ways to achieve this and some work has already begun such as the new ICT system in development and the ability to comment on the online version of the Napo magazine. Change doesn’t always happen as quickly as we might like but it is happening.
The most enjoyable part of my role as vice chair and I hope of my new role as chair is getting out and about and meeting members. Whether this is at national AGM, NEC, branch meetings or just being invited to discuss a specific issue in a workplace I am always happy to get an invite and always make the best effort I can to turn up.
I am a representative of Napo members and the professions in which we work and I will never tire of talking about how we, together in Napo, can make our working lives better.