What is Restorative Practice?

Restorative Practice is all about relationships. It is a pro-active approach for making, maintaining and, when necessary, repairing relationships. Restorative Practice is well evidenced as an approach that empowers children, young people and families, helping those involved to express their underlying needs, navigate difficult issues and develop their own solutions. It has increasingly been used in school, care homes and the wider community, not only to address conflict but also to build understanding and strengthen relationships throughout the whole community.

Principles and Values of Restorative Practice

At the heart of restorative practice is a set of values and principles that puts the highest priority on: Really listening to people; Avoiding fixing things for them; Being non-judgemental; Remaining neutral; and Respecting each person’s unique perspective on a situation. Through restorative conversations we aim to develop empathy and reduce the likelihood of escalation or recurrence.

Themes and linked questions for a 5-step conversation

Theme 1 is based on the idea that every person has a unique perspective on any situation and needs an opportunity to be listened to. Theme 1 and the linked question is an opportunity for each individual to tell their story and to be heard.

Linked questions: What were you thinking? And how were you feeling?

What people think influences how they feel and these feelings inform how they behave. Exploring thoughts and feelings will enable the individual to reflect on and process what has happened to them. In a meeting sharing those thoughts and feelings can build empathy and understanding between people. As part of the restorative process key moments in the story are identified and thoughts and feelings at those points are explored.

Theme 3 –Harm and Affect

Linked questions: Who has been affected? How?
When conflict occurs, harm can ripple out and affect lots of different people. Theme 3 is an opportunity for people to reflect on the impact of what has happened to themselves and to others. For the individual, it is an opportunity for the person harmed to reflect on and process the experience and for the person who caused harm, it is an opportunity to become aware of the impact of what has happened and this can be a significant step in building empathy towards the other person.

Theme 4 –Underlying Needs
Linked questions: What do you need to feel better? Sounds like you need…?
Whether someone has caused harm or been harmed they are likely to have similar needs. This stage of the restorative process is about identifying underlying needs –rather than focussing on what someone demands or wants from the other person. If underlying needs can be identified this will help people identify what they need to move forward which will help to repair relationships.

Theme 5 –Ownership of Solutions
Linked questions: What needs to happen to move forwards? What needs to happen to put things right?
The people who are affected by a situation or event are best placed to identify what needs to happen so that everyone can move on and so that harm can be repaired. In this stage of the process, the ownership of decision making and solutions remains with the people affected. This empowers all parties to be in control of the restorative process which is about doing things “with” people rather than “to” or “for” them.