When there is a conflict between two or more people or an offence has been committed and there is some acknowledgement of harm by both parties, those involved can be brought together with an independent and qualified restorative practitioner to discuss what has happened from all points of view and what can be done to repair the situation.
Restorative practice encompasses a range of interventions including informal restorative conversations, impromptu conferences and circles. There is also the more formal restorative conference that includes those who have caused the harm, the direct victim(s), and, where relevant, professionals and other members of the community.
Common to all these restorative processes is a structured approach to address harm in a supportive and positive way that puts the people most affected at the centre of the process. The primary goals of restorative processes are:
- to clarify the responsibility for the wrongdoing;
- to address the nature of the harm caused;
- to identify those affected;
- to explore ways of ‘putting right’ the harm that was caused;
- integrate/re-integrate both the parties that were harmed and those responsible into the community, group, etc.
Restorative approaches can be used in a one-off manner, but work most effectively when a restorative ethos is adopted within an organisation or group. As the parties become familiar with handling conflict positively, any disputes that do arise can be dealt with efficiently and effectively. In this way the community is strengthened, and the incidence of disputes lowered.