Restorative and relational practice is a way of being that equips us for building relationships, strengthening communities, resolving conflict and repairing harm. It is less what we do and more who we become. Restorative practice is applicable in every setting where there are people – the living room, the board room, the team room, the classroom, the conference room and the court room.
This two minute video from the International Institute for Restorative Practices provides a useful summary.
Restorative practice is proactive – recognising that relationships and community matter, it shifts our focus from behaviour to relationships, prioritising ‘connection before correction’. Being restorative is to be relentless in the elimination of battles (it is no longer about winning or losing), rather it is having a shared purpose and growing social and relational capital.
Restorative justice on the other hand is reactive, it is a much smaller dimension within the restorative offer, occurring after an event (or crime) to repair harm and/or put things right. There is a substantial body of evidence that restorative approaches within criminal justice settings are effective in repairing harm and makes economic sense – further information and resources are available from the Restorative Justice Council.
Restorative practice is not a liberal ‘hug-it-out’ approach! Rather it recognises that punitive and retributive approaches rarely bring the hoped for change in behaviour, so instead cultivates relationships and invites those who have caused harm to be part of the solution with a strong emphasis on responsibility and accountability, support and challenge.
Restorative practice was first introduced to Portsmouth in 2016, through an in-depth multi-agency process to choose a model of practice to frame all our work in the city with children and families. Restorative practice was the favoured model – providing a framework for relational practice under which can sit a range of interventions, support and ‘ways of being’ with children and families. This development was largely informed by similar practice developments in Leeds where children were more effectively safeguarded when restorative practice was introduced. Leeds saw reductions in the numbers of looked after children, and those on ‘child in need’ plans and ‘child protection plans’. The robust evidence for the effectiveness of this approach is compelling [Leeds Family Valued Evaluation report (Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme Evaluation Report 43) Department of Education July 2017].
This approach is also a key thread within the council and with the Portsmouth Education Partnership for improving school inclusion (and addressing absence, exclusion), plus local evidence of impact in our schools, has confirmed that we will continue with and accelerate work to embed restorative practice in Portsmouth schools. The research from Dr Robert Loe states “we have already found that where schools in the UK focussed on relationships, students’ sense of self was stronger, their attendance and participation increased and their overall achievement higher”. This TED Talk from Michelle Stowe is a brilliant introduction to restorative practice in schools
There is a close fit between restorative practice and work across the PSCP on trauma (e.g. PACE), behaviour change (e.g. motivational interviewing), whole-family practice (e.g. family safeguarding and early help), and child centred policing. The Portsmouth Children’s Trust Plan (2020-2023) states: “The City continues to be committed to embedding the language, practice and principles of restorative practice.”
In Portsmouth we have an explicit restorative framework founded on the principles of working ‘with’ people (families and colleagues), rather than doing ‘to’ or ‘for’. When we work with and alongside others, rather than make decisions about (without) them, positive changes are more likely.
Restorative and relational practice can range from formal to informal processes that enable workers, colleagues, managers, children, young people and their families to communicate effectively, build social bonds, strengthen communities and know how to put things right when they go wrong.
As well as a culture of strong relationships, restorative approaches can include restorative circles – a way of intentionally being together to strengthen communities (teams, schools, families) and explore issues. There are many other tools that support working ‘with’ others. The restorative framework provides a conversational or meeting scaffold to address challenges or facilitate putting things right/repairing harm. The framework (sometimes expressed in questions) breathes life into our relational intentions: moving us from taking sides and having battles (which often generates resistance) to empathy and connection (fertile ground for transformation and change).
Everyone working with children and young people has a duty to keep them safe from harm. We want to improve the life outcomes for all children and young people, and to reduce the need for children and young people to be looked after or excluded from school. Restorative practices are widely established and accepted both nationally and internationally as a highly effective way of achieving better outcomes for children, young people and their families.
The commitment across the PSCP to restorative practice (RP) is reflected in the training offer outlined below.
Restorative practice – an introduction, 3 hours delivered monthly via zoom.
Target audience: Portsmouth colleagues in need of an introduction to RP or as a refresher.
Restorative practice – development, 2½ hours delivered monthly via zoom.
Target audience: delegates who have previously attended either the introductory course or the previous 2 or 4 day course.
Restorative practice – circles and meetings, 2½ hours delivered bi-monthly via zoom.
Target audience: delegates who have attended previous courses, have current knowledge and are secure in their restorative practice and want to develop their RP facilitation skills.
Courses are booked through online booking system https://pscptraining.portsmouthscp.org.uk/
Bespoke offer – for groups/teams (max 20) looking to embed restorative practice.
Drawing from the three sessions above the content is specifically curated to enable whole teams/groups to understand and embed RP.
Action learning – 90 minute monthly facilitated action learning over 6 months, for groups who have completed the introduction and development training and want to embed RP in their practice.
To commission bespoke work or action learning please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your training needs.
https://www.connectrp.ie/ led by Michelle Stowe hosting excellent CPD resources, events and courses.
https://l30relationalsystems.co.uk/childrens-services/ founded by Mark Finnis.
https://www.iirp.edu/ The International Institute for Restorative Practice.
Restorative Practices. Mark Finnis (2021).
Building a Trauma-Informed Restorative School. Joe Brummer (2021).
Just Culture: Restoring Trust and Accountability in Your Organization. Sidney Dekker (2017).