What’s next? The RJC’s plans for the coming year

From time to time I find it useful to take stock and to look at what projects we have on the go at the RJC, what we have coming up, and what we would like to do next. This helps to ensure that what we are doing is in line with our priorities and aims as an organisation, to check that we have the right balance of work, and to identify any gaps. A month or so into the new financial year we have been going through that process and I thought that it might be useful to share the highlights of our current work programme.

We have, as always, a very busy year planned. This will include work with incoming PCCs, who are key commissioners for restorative justice, and ongoing work to ensure that restorative justice is at the heart of the new probation landscape. We will also continue to promote the use of restorative justice to the public, and in particular support people who have participated in restorative justice to share their stories. We know how powerful this can be in helping the wider public to understand its benefits.

Our work with the Ministry of Justice also includes a major focus on increasing the use of restorative justice in prisons as the government’s reforms of the prison system develop, and a project to explore how victim take-up of restorative justice can be improved. And we’re very pleased to have received funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust to carry out a short research project on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people’s access to and experience of restorative justice.

There are other projects that we are determined to carry out this year and are currently trying to put together funding for. These include, for example, a programme of work to significantly increase the use of restorative practice in schools, work on the use of restorative justice in cases involving violence against women, and a renewed focus on the use of restorative practice in care homes. These are all areas where we know that restorative practice can bring significant benefits, and we will keep pushing to make sure that happens.

Alongside all of this, we remain fully committed to our work to ensure quality in the delivery of restorative practice. The RSQM and Training Approval Scheme have recently been reviewed and we are currently finalising the changes that will result. We will also be taking steps to ensure that our practitioner accreditation process is fit for purpose. As the restorative practice field develops and grows, we have to ensure that all our products are robust but inclusive, so that everybody working in the field can access them.

Last, but by no means least, we are a membership organisation. We will continue to enable our members to collaborate, provide resources to support their work, and keep them informed about developments in the field. We will also continue to rely on our members to provide insight into the challenges that they face, to inform our work programme, and to put us in touch with people who have themselves benefitted from restorative practice. Our membership provides a vital link for us into day-to-day practice.

But while we are ambitious, we also need to be realistic. The RJC’s funding from the Ministry of Justice has been significantly reduced this year compared to the last two years, in line with reductions in government spending generally. We need to recognise that our capacity is half what it was and even my incredibly hard-working colleagues have limits. We will need to do less, to slim back on some of activities to focus on what matter most. And we will rely now, more than ever, on our members to provide support for what we do.

This will be an important year for the RJC as we streamline our workload and focus our attention on achieving our core aims. But I am confident that it will be a year when real progress will continue to be made.