My interest in restorative justice stems from about 15 years ago when it gained profile as a guiding principle in conflict resolution in schools.
Having previously worked in schools that supported the needs of 'troubled' children and young people, the tension of conflict was never far away. The successful resolution to such conflict inevitably required the skills of good listening, patience as well as the ability to reassure children and young people that their concerns were being treated fairly and that a solution would be found.
Not surprisingly, the perception of conflict was driven by feelings such as fear, anger and frustration that required sensitive handling and management. I'm sure that for anyone who has experienced a restorative process in action this must all sound rather familiar.
My interest in restorative justice was also prompted several years ago when I chose to represent the school where I was working at the time as the 'victim' following an incident in which several thousand pounds worth of criminal damage was caused by two students and an adult - let's call it a late-night vehicle escapade!
Through the work of the local Youth Offending Team at the time, a restorative meeting was convened in which one student, supported by his mother, and I met in the company of a YOT worker who acted as Chair of the meeting.
There were no pre-meetings, merely an invitation to attend and represent the school community in relation to the impact of the crime. I still recall the 'power' of that meeting in relation to its impact on both the young person concerned and myself.
It certainly had a restorative impact on both parties. Consequently, the student resumed attendance at the school and later returned to a mainstream secondary school where he continued to make good progress. Considering the impact on the school and its community, it would have been very easy to decline the restorative meeting that proved so successful.
I still think about the young person concerned and what might have happened if that meeting had not been held.
I referred earlier to fear, anger and frustration. In the small number of cases that I have been involved with since completing my initial training in 2016, these emotions have all been easily recognised as component elements of the conflict experienced, which in some cases has clearly had a corrosive and debilitating impact on the individuals concerned. In such circumstances, the role undertaken by facilitators is clearly one that requires great sensitivity in the management of the referral to engage in a restorative approach to the conflict experienced.
One extremely valuable feature of the work undertaken by Restorative Together in Wiltshire is the quality and frequency of supervision that is available to all facilitators irrespective of their experience. These sessions enable volunteer facilitators to share and discuss their experiences with experienced practitioners.
From a personal point of view, and I'm sure I can speak on behalf of other facilitators, these sessions are invaluable in terms of the learning experienced and the personal support that is given.
If you are interested in what you've read and want to know more about becoming a restorative justice facilitator do contact [email protected] or call 01380 861280