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Enhancing communication, collaboration and the sharing of knowledge between volunteer restorative practitioners in the UK: An array of possibilities

Apr 24, 2015

from the paper by Ian Marder, founder of Community of Restorative Researchers:

My recent article outlined some of the reasons why it might be beneficial to establish a UK-wide organisation to represent volunteer restorative practitioners (hereinafter ‘volunteers’). I wrote this article following a number of conversations with volunteers in different parts of the UK over a period of several months. These revealed that their enthusiasm for their work was often coupled with feelings of isolation. Even in areas where groups of volunteers had created thriving micro-communities, many expressed the feeling of being separated from people involved in similar activities in other parts of the country. 

They gave a number of reasons why they wanted to open communication with equivalent groups elsewhere, namely to learn from the experiences of others, to coordinate national and regional events, to share delivery capacity and to socialise, among other objectives. This is what led me to think that the field would benefit from the creation of a national association of volunteer restorative practitioners.

....In England and Wales, we are currently going through a rapid period of expansion in the use of restorative justice, and there seems to be a trend towards the use of volunteers in delivery. Two pieces of legislation have been passed on restorative justice in recent years: first, the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which made reference to the use of restorative justice at the pre-sentence stage; secondly, the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014, which made reference to the use of restorative justice as part of a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order. 

The implementation of both of these Acts is likely to involve significant recruitment of volunteer restorative practitioners. Moreover, in April 2014, Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales were allocated almost £30m from the Ministry of Justice to invest in building the capacity to deliver restorative justice in their area. Police forces, councils, Community Safety Partnerships, non-profits and other organisations across the country are currently having to decide what to do with this money, and much of it is being spent on recruiting and training volunteers to deliver restorative justice as a diversion from arrest or court. 

There are certainly many in this field who make credible, persuasive arguments in support of alternative approaches to how RJ should be delivered. But whatever one’s perspective on this question, the reality seems to be that the involvement of volunteers in the delivery of restorative justice in the UK is a phenomenon which is likely to endure. Given this, my desire is that all of us in this field should be as proactive as possible in ensuring that these volunteers are provided, and are able to provide each other, with the support and knowledge they require to deliver safe and effective restorative justice.

Read the whole article.

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