Trauma-informed practice and restorative approaches: how the two can work together
A blog by Leah Robinson – Development Officer at Why me?
Before joining Why me?, I was working as the Victim Liaison and Restorative Justice Worker for a Youth Offending Team (YOT). YOTs work in a young person-centered way, often conducting their work according to trauma-informed practice. Trauma-informed practice involves working with a young person while taking account of their life experiences. This can include their socio-economic background, family history, peer relationships, previous experiences of being a victim of crime themselves, and other experiences.
Working in this holistic way is crucial to understanding the young person and their background, allowing YOT workers to discuss their motivations for offending and deter them from future offending. It allows practitioners to see the bigger picture and deal with the more ingrained reasons for offending, rather than things which appear only on the surface. Many, if not all young people who commit offences have experienced some form of trauma. Trauma-informed practice enables practitioners to tap into this and use it within their intervention for the young person, focusing on ‘what happened to you?’ as opposed to ‘what’s wrong with you?’. This way of working is commonly referred to as being ‘young person led’ or ‘young person focused’.
A restorative approach is a way of dealing with a person or situation with the focus placed on repairing the harm caused. Dealing with any kind of conflict restoratively involves being victim-led, meaning that the wants and needs of the person harmed are at the forefront of the practice. Restorative practices are always participant-informed and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. This means that each situation is different, as each person, their feelings, reactions and responses are different.
Trauma-informed practice and restorative approaches can be mutually beneficial. While restorative approaches are victim-led and participant-focused, this does not mean that the needs of the person who has caused the harm are ignored. In fact, restorative approaches require the practitioner to be neutral in their conduct, not favouring either the harmed or the harmer. Working according to trauma-informed practice allows practitioners to take into account the additional complexities involved when working with young people who have committed offences. By combining the two ways of working, this allows for a neutral, targeted approach which benefits all parties involved and contributes to the overall goal of repairing the harm caused and preventing reoffending.