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  Restorative Practices within Residential Care Settings

Restorative justice is a term used to describe processes that aim to address the harm caused by a criminal offence or a non-criminal incident. At the heart of restorative justice is the principle that via a method of structured communication, victims and perpetrators can discuss how they were affected by an incident and can explore what needs to happen to repair the harm caused (Youth Justice Board, 2004).

Marshall (1999) proposed a definition of restorative justice which is frequently cited in the literature. Restorative justice is defined as: "…a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future".

Children and young people within residential care are often the most vulnerable within our communities.

The DfES, 2006 Green Paper, Care Matters - has recently acknowledged that children in care are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. It made recommendations on the use of restorative justice as an alternative form of behaviour management and for local protocols between residential services and police to try to prevent unnecessary call outs relating to minor offences. Recent developments in the use of restorative justice in children's residential care, including the first pilot of restorative approaches in the East of England in 2003, have also drawn attention to the potential of restorative justice to resolve conflict, challenging behaviour and the everyday living tensions that exist in residential settings (Littlechild & Sender, 2006).

Restorative approaches are often highly effective when used to resolve issues such as:
  • Assaults between residents
  • Assaults on staff
  • Conflict between residents
  • Conflict between residents and staff
  • Bullying
  • Racially motivated incidents
  • Criminal damage

The aim of all restorative process are to explore an incident or situation, to help the young person to reflect, explore responsibility, look at ways to avoid a similar situation in the future and to find a way to move on. Restorative approaches achieves this by btinging all parties together to explore what has happened, whose been affected and reach an agreement as to how the harm can be repaired and how to avoid the same situation happening again in the future.

Types of restorative approaches within residential setting are:

One on One Individual Restorative Meetings/Conversation - A discussion between a resident and a trained member of staff, with the aim of obtaining a restorative solution to an incident using restorative language and outcomes. The meeting draws on the principles of restorative justice, using some of the questions a facilitator would use in a restorative conference. These conversations can be useful with both a harmer and harmed person allowing both sides to learn positive solutions to conflict.

Informal restorative discussions or meetings - An impromptu non prepared discussion or meeting between those in conflict and a trained neutral member of staff. These discussions offer an opportunity to unpick incidents that have just happened and look to resolutions between parties. These discussions would usually involve face-to-face meetings but can involve shuttle mediation between parties if necessary.

Restorative Justice Conferencing - A face to face meeting between a trained conference facilitator, usually a member of staff, with those involved with in a issue of conflict. The aim of the meeting is for all parties to explore what has happened, whose been affected and reach an agreement as to how the harm can be repaired and how to avoid the same situation happening again in the future.

Community/Group Conferencing - Involving a larger number of participants where an issue either general or specific can be explored and resolved by using a framework of restorative language and outcomes. These meetings allow a wider group learning where empathy, social skills and communication skills can be developed as well as conflict resolved in a positive way that is open so all can learn from it.

Benefits of using restorative approaches within a residential child care setting include a reduction in:
  • Disruptive behaviour
  • Minor criminal damage
  • Number of police call outs
  • Residents entering the CJS
  • Missing from care episodes
  • Use of restraints
  • Assaults
  • Racially motivated incidents
  • Bullying
Benefits of using restorative approaches to the victim:
  • Opportunity to participate in a process that they are central to
  • Have their say
  • Take back some control of their situation by choosing to participate
  • Ask any questions
  • Have a say about reparation, unpaid work, financial restitution, or an apology
  • Witness genuine remorse
  • Reduces anxiety and possible post traumatic stress disorder
Benefits of using restorative approaches to the offender:
  • Learn about the harm they caused
  • Acknowledge that harm
  • Explain what happened
  • Opportunity to apologise
  • Attempt to repair the harm caused
  • Reduces re-offending
 
© Restorative Training Services, 2010