What is Restorative Practice?



What is a restorative practitioner?

A restorative practitioner is someone who is committed to being restorative in all that they do. That means that they will use restorative approaches to build relation ship and prevent conflict, and to deal with conflict in healthy manner when it occurs. Being an RP Practitioner means having values that include respect for other, empathy, fairness, personal accountability and honesty.  RP Practitioners take a collaborative approach to problem-solving and actively strive to be solution focused in their lives and work.

Anyone can be restorative, and we can be restorative in any context or setting, and at any level of conflict, from minor disagreements or tensions, to serious harm and hurt.

Does it just deal with conflict?

No. It can also be used to bring communities together to tackle a broad range of topics and to give them and unified voice to action the problem such as; lack of services, community events and safer community initiatives.

Why is different to what is already happening?

The restorative approach gives everyone in the group an equal voice. Everyone has an opportunity to have their say and to be heard.

How are they run?

The use of restorative circles is key to a successful community meeting. These circles are facilitated in a way that allows everyone to have their say. Consensus is encouraged when decisions have to be agreed and creative dialogue is encourage when differences arise.

What are the benefits of restorative practices?

At its most basic, restorative practices improve the quality of relationships we have.  Using this approach can both avoid and minimise conflict, and help us to manage it better when it does arise.

More specifically, restorative practices have been found to reduce school exclusions, improve staff sickness rates, reduce tensions in the work place, and give people greater confidence in managing difficult situations.  In more serious circumstances, restorative practices has been effective in helping those who have experienced crime to heal and it can be used as an alterative to, or alongside more traditional justice responses.

People who have participated in restorative practice training and are using it as a way of working, report that their work is easier, more enjoyable and more effective.  The skills and tools help to separate emotions from the situation, focusing instead on solutions.  Parents report better relationships with their children, residents report better relationships with their neighbours and young people report increased confidence and better relationships with their teachers, their families, their friends and their peers.

What do I need to do to use restorative practice?

Many people use restorative approaches in their work already without naming them that.  In order to use restorative practice consistently, it is helpful to attend an introductory training day (see link for training coming up) and then consider what further training is most relevant.  The restorative practice tools and approaches can be easily incorporated into existing practice with the most common change being a shift from asking “why?” to “what happened?” whenever difficulties arise.  If you are trying to work out whether restorative practices has an application in the area where you work, it could also be useful to see the useful links section and find other similar organisations who are already working restoratively.

Who uses restorative practice?

Anyone can use restorative practice. It can help parents and those caring for children of any age, and indeed, young people themselves can readily learn the skills to become restorative.  Teachers and youth workers use restorative practice, as do police, and others in the criminal justice system, right through to judges and prison officers. We can use these approaches with our neighbours, our family, the people we work with, and those we work for.

The training for adopting and using an restorative practice approach is accessible and appropriate to anyone aged 12 years or over with an interest in, or a reason for, doing these two things in their life and work.   Anyone can become competent to begin using restorative practice after training for one day and can gain the skills to become an expert restorative practitioner after a further three days training.  This is possible because restorative practice builds on skills that everyone has and provides a simple framework for using those skills more consistently and, consequently, more effectively.

What are restorative practices in the community?

Restorative practices in the community are a range of approaches designed to bring people together to resolve or talk about issues relating to their neighbour in a positive and productive way.

It can be used to deal with differences of opinion of conflict that is affecting the community such as; anti-social behaviour, neighbour-neighbour disputes and vandalism.

Why is restorative practice important for young people?

Restorative practice is important for young people because it shows us that not everything is one sided and it gives young people a “say” in the outcome of a situation.

Restorative practice is used by young people all across the island of Ireland in many different settings, be it in a school they attend or a youth group they are involved in and it has a great positive effect on everyone involved.  Restorative practice helps in everyday life, circles help when in schools or clubs by relieving the initial awkwardness and they also help us get insight into each other’s day. Fishbowls help with problem solving and relationship building which is important for any young person.

Restorative practice is used by young people in leadership roles everyday in the hope that it will help other young people make better choices and remember that every action has a consequence. Most importantly restorative practices shows young people how to respect each other and should there be a problem, it shows them that there are other ways of dealing with it.

What is the difference between Restorative practice and restorative justice?

Restorative approaches can be used at any point on the continuum of supports, form prevention and early intervention, right through to victim-offender mediation and serious offences.  Where on this continuum you intervene, may slightly alter the approach. Restorative practice can be defined as an approach to restoring good relationships when there has been conflict or harm that attempt to incorporate either offender awareness of the harm they have caused, or offender efforts to pay back the community for that harm, without necessarily engaging in restorative justice or in any way repairing harm done to their own victims. Restorative Justice is a process whereby parties with a stake in a specific offence resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future. Restorative justice can be an alternative to, or used in conjunction with, other criminal justice responses.

How can restorative justice help someone who has been a victim of crime?

Restorative Justice is an inclusive way of dealing with harm caused by a crime. It seeks to bring together those most affected to discuss what has happened, acknowledging that they are the best placed to find ways of repairing the harm. Participants are given a place to share their story in a facilitated, safe and structured way. Many victims of crime report that they benefited from telling how the offence impacted on them, putting questions directly to the offender and having a say in what should happen next, perhaps receiving an apology and reparation. The process is entirely voluntary and interaction with offender can be direct or indirect. It is the role of the facilitator to help victims make an informed choice whether to participate or not, by explaining the process and what will happen. Victims should expect full support and information before, during and after the process and have adequate time to prepare. They can opt out at any time and should also be able to bring someone with them as a support. They may be approached by police, the probation service or a recognised community project to engage in a restorative justice meeting and may themselves seeks a meeting through the criminal justice service, although it is not always possible to facilitate such requests.