Improving restorative practice for young people


This three year project aims to improve access to Restorative Justice (RJ) for young people who have committed crimes, and the people harmed by their actions. We are particularly focussing on people from BAME communities, who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

Restorative Justice changes lives. It can transform the recovery of people affected by crime, and divert people away from offending behaviour. This can be particularly important for young people, as early intervention can prevent them from getting locked into a spiral of crime from which they see no way out. Restorative Justice encourages empathy, communication and a genuine understanding of the harm that has been caused. It also helps the person who was harmed understand why this happened to them and move forward.

Building on the structure of our three year project on Restorative Justice and hate crime, this project enables us to learn about the barriers preventing the wider use of RJ for young people, and to help services address them.

What are we doing?

  • Working with three YOTs across the country to improve the provision of Restorative Justice for children and young people in that area. Two of these partnerships will be in areas with a high BAME population.
  • Interviewing young people who have taken part in Restorative Justice about their experiences.
  • Writing and disseminating a best practice paper highlighting our findings.
  • Holding national and regional workshops to discuss our work, including one workshop specifically about access to Restorative Justice for BAME people.
  • Writing a paper about the applicability of our findings to young adults as well as under-18s.
  • Lobbying policy-makers to take on board our findings about why and how they should improve access to Restorative Justice for young people.

Why are we doing this?

  • Restorative Justice is an important tool which can aid the recovery of people affected by crime, while increasing the likelihood that perpetrators will move away from offending behaviour. Victims of crime are entitled to be informed about the option of Restorative Justice, but in 2018/19 less than 5% of victims with a known offender recalled being made aware of it.
  • There is a particular opportunity to improve the use of Restorative Justice in youth justice services, where there is a greater focus on genuinely rehabilitative interventions compared to the adult justice system.
  • Young adults between 18 and 25 are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, and have particular needs which are often overlooked. The youth justice system takes perpetrators’ lack of maturity into account, but this is lost in the adult system, despite many young people who offend not reaching full maturity until they are much older than 18. Increasing the provision of Restorative Justice to young adults could help to divert them away from further offending behaviour. Barrow Cadbury’s Transition to Adulthood Programme gives more evidence and explanation of the unique problems facing young adults in the justice system.
  • BAME people are over represented in the justice system. It’s important to ensure that they have equal access to Restorative Justice, and that any particular needs of BAME communities are met in the process.

Restorative Justice builds community. It helps the voices of everyone affected by crime to be heard and to find a resolution. Offending behaviour often starts young, and by the time people are fully mature they can be trapped in a spiral of crime which they see no escape from. Restorative Justice can help young people to appreciate the real-life consequences of their actions, and divert them away from committing crime. It also allows people who were affected by their actions to have their voices heard, and to get the answers which they need to move forward with their lives. We are hugely excited about the opportunity to strengthen the use of Restorative Justice for young people, and look forward to sharing our findings.

Lucy Jaffé, Director of Why me?

Do you work with young people in the criminal justice system? If you would like to find out more about this project, please contact Ben Andrew on


This work is funded by the Charles Hayward Foundation and the Barrow Cadbury Trust. Twitter: @BarrowCadbury.


© 2021 Why me? Charity no. 1137123. Company no. 6992709.