Why you can’t miss our Liverpool conference

If you are reading this blog post, you must be interested in offender supervision in one way or another, and in one place or another. On that basis alone, our conference on  26th and 27th April at Liverpool Hope University, on the subject of’ ‘Offender Supervision in Europe’ is one that you simply can’t afford to miss.

Admittedly, I am a little biased, being one of the organisers of the conference and of the research network whose findings will be presented in Liverpool. I am also even more excited than usual about our work and the conference, as I am writing from the train on my way home from visiting the venue and reviewing the excellent facilities there. Liverpool Hope University is in the suburbs of the city, just 15 minutes (or about £10) by taxi from the train station and from the airport. The main building which will host our event is a state of the art facility only a couple of years old; it’s perfect for what we expect to be a meeting of about 150-200 of Europe’s leading researchers and practitioners in this field.

But there are also more important reasons why this conference is so important, so well timed and so well situated. Probation services all over Europe (and further afield) are feeling the chill winds of the financial crisis. The effects on the structures, cultures and practices of these organisations are sure to be profound. Current debates in England and Wales about the UK Government’s plans for ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ provide a clear signal of this. These plans are likely to lead to about 75% of the work of Probation Trusts being contracted out, probably to large private sector organisations working in partnership with the voluntary sector. The Government’s plan is to introduce ‘Payment by Results’; essentially a marketisation of offender supervision services intended (so we are told) to maximise cost effectiveness.

Readers in continental Europe (and in other parts of the UK, like my country Scotland) may be thinking ‘It couldn’t happen here, could it?’. But we should remember that, for better and worse, probation in England and Wales has always had profound influence around Europe and the rest of the world; and cash-strapped governments (even of quite different political persuasions) will doubtless be keeping a close eye on what happens in England and Wales over the next few years.

So our conference provides an ideal opportunity both for European colleagues to meet and talk with colleagues from the UK, and for UK based colleagues to learn more about how and with what effect offender supervision is governed, organised and delivered in different places, and about how it is experienced by those whose lives it affects. We’ll also be discussing the influence of European institutions and standards on offender supervision, as well as the very business of policy and practice transfer between jurisdictions that I have mentioned above.

All this, and you get the chance to visit the great city of Liverpool too… This conference might not be bigger than the Beatles, but then you don’t have to choose between them!

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