Youth Justice: Exploring good practice

Published: Thursday, November 17th, 2022

This blog is written by our Restorative Justice Development Officer (Youth Justice), Leah Robinson. 


As part of our Youth Justice Project, project lead Leah Robinson has written a Good Practice Guide for Youth Justice Services (YJSs) as a culmination of the work done over the past two years. We have compiled our learnings into one report so practitioners within the Youth Justice sector can gain knowledge from the project and implement the recommendations that have come out of it.

The project has involved partnerships with three Youth Justice Services, Prospects in Gloucestershire, Lambeth Youth Offending Service and Lancashire Child and Youth Justice Service. Each partnership involved Why me? conducting a deep dive into the Restorative Justice (RJ) and restorative practices within the service. We wrote a report based on our key findings and recommendations and delivered bespoke training catered to the needs of each service. These partnerships have each been very successful and we are grateful to all three services.

The Good Practice Guide we have produced focusses on our recommendations for YJSs in terms of Restorative Justice (RJ) and restorative practice. We have made these recommendations under the following headings:

  • Making the offer of Restorative Justice
  • Offences without a direct victim
  • Letters of explanation
  • Restorative Justice worker
  • Trauma-informed practice
  • Data collection and recording
  • Victim and Restorative Justice policy

We held an event titled ‘Youth Justice Services: Exploring Good Practice’ on Wednesday 7th December with professionals from Youth Justice and/or restorative backgrounds to explore the recommendations made in the Guide in more detail and allow attendees the opportunity to ask questions to gain clarity.

‘It was thought provoking. It is very helpful to learn from the hard-won experience of others and the timing is very good for me in my new role. I have recently drafted an RJ Policy and I will be amending it as a result of what I have heard today.’ – Event attendee

Here are some of the questions asked at the event and the answers Leah provided:

How can these recommendations be best applied when RJ is carried out as a requirement of a Community Resolution by the police?

Our advice with regards to Community Resolutions with a restorative criteria is to make sure that, as much as possible, you allow young people to make decisions on their own behalf. For example, if they are required to write a letter of explanation, it is important to remain participant-focused and use creative solutions to find out what they do or do not want to say and the way in which they want to present the information – i.e. through a letter, storyboard or card? 

This can be difficult to navigate when the criteria diminishes the voluntary principle of restorative practice. However, it is also important to follow through with making the full offer of Restorative Justice to a young person to allow them the chance to engage further if they want to. For example, if a young person is required to write a letter of explanation, you should still offer them the opportunity to engage in a face-to-face conference so that they are aware of all the options available.

Would it be preferable not to have trauma explored by a caseworker and a Restorative Justice worker, i.e. they should agree who will explore trauma and share that information?

We want to distinguish between the difference in doing trauma work with someone and working according to trauma-informed and restorative practices. The former involves specifically focusing on trauma, working on understanding the differences in how our brains process trauma. The latter involves working with people in a holistic, person-centred way while taking account of their life experiences and the fact they may have experienced trauma, without necessarily working through it. 

Therefore, the person who explores the trauma work with the young person would be decided by each individual service when establishing job roles and organisational structure. However, trauma-informed and restorative practices can be implemented by all professionals, regardless of whether they are completing formal trauma work.

‘A brilliant project, clearly explained and vital to good practice across the board. I will be taking some ideas back with me and implementing them here.’  – Event attendee

Read the report

Find out more about our work with young people

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