Listening to the voices of young people

Published: Friday, March 3rd, 2023

This is a blog by our Development Officer (Youth Justice) Leah Robinson.


On the 16th March we will be launching our Youth Justice report and holding a free online launch event from 2pm-4pm.

This event will see Project Lead Leah Robinson explain the work that has been completed on the project and, together with co-writer of the report Dr. Rebecca Banwell-Moore, talk through the findings and overall recommendations within the report. Attendees will learn about improving restorative practices for young people and young adults and will have the chance to ask questions directly to the authors of the report.

The report is one of the outputs of Why me?’s three-year project which started in September 2020 and focused on improving Restorative Justice for young people and young adults.  The work done within this project has enabled us to learn about the barriers preventing the wider use of Restorative Justice for young people and young adults.

The aims of the project were to develop a Good Practice Guide for Youth Justice Services and publish this policy recommendation report. 

There are three strands to the project and throughout the work we have done, we have been keen to ensure that the research is informed by the young people and young adults it is designed to help.

The three strands are: 

  1. Working with Youth Justice Services
  2. Focusing on young adults aged 18-25
  3. Exploring disparities in access to Restorative Justice for young people from Black, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds. 

Having conducted a total of seven partnerships, 32 service user interviews, 39 staff members interviews, five focus groups, and four restorative circles, we have identified five key areas that are preventing young people from engaging in Restorative Justice: 

1. Awareness and misconceptions

A combination of not being told about Restorative Justice, not having sufficient information about the process, and misconceptions about it means many young people are unlikely to engage. One young adult we interviewed stated: “I think if you […] actually let people know what the actual process is I think they’d be interested in doing it and if they knew the benefit for the other person, they’d be more likely to do it as well.”

2. Terminology

As part of our work with young people, we asked them to rate their understanding of the word ‘restorative’. Many of the young people we spoke to found some of the terminology can be confusing, including the term ‘Restorative Justice’ itself. One interviewee gave an understanding rating of three or four out of ten, explaining: 

“Someone’s told me a bit about it and yeah but before that I didn’t know too much about it […] basically making up with someone, yeah, finding the middle point with another person and coming to agreement, yeah … yeah, it’s happened in school but it wasn’t the exact words.” (YP2)

This response highlights the need for consistency in terminology as this interviewee understood the process as it had been used in their school but was not familiar with the word ‘restorative’.

3. Provision

Once young people and young adults in particular have been made aware of Restorative Justice and their ability to engage in the process should they so wish, there is a lack of formal processes through which they can access the service. This is especially true for young people who may not want to engage in Restorative Justice straight away. 

4. Mistrust of services

One of the key findings from the work focusing on disparities in the uptake of Restorative Justice for young people and young adults from Black, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds was the lack of trust in services, in particular with regard to the police.

5. Real-world examples to act as case studies

While Why me? has a number of ambassadors who have engaged in Restorative Justice as a victim, there is a distinct lack of offenders who offer to discuss their own experience of Restorative Justice. Particularly for young adults in custody, having examples of offenders who have had positive experiences of a restorative process would have significantly increased their likelihood of engaging in Restorative Justice themselves.

This report showcases an exciting and innovative piece of work, which has embodied the restorative principle of being participant-focused throughout. This is exemplified by one young person congratulating us on this work and the fact that “people our age want their opinions heard, so ask them their opinions.”

Sign up to the event

If you have any questions, please contact Leah at

© 2024 Why me? Charity no. 1137123. Company no. 6992709.