Across the country housing officers each week spend many hours trying to sort out conflict between neighbours; loud music, abusive language, household noise, parking disputes, pet problems, children and adults behaving inappropriately, criminal damage, unkept gardens and so on.
It is not uncommon for disputes to drag on for years to the point where those involved are unable to remember what caused the disagreement in the first place. The emotional costs are enormous and a drain on the quality of life for all involved. Financial implications both in terms of staff time and litigation costs can amount to tens of thousands of pounds per case.
The use of restorative justice to resolve neighbour disputes and tenancy problems is now recognised as being a highly effective, time efficient non-legal intervention. Registered Providers of social housing are now training staff in the use of restorative justice in line with the Home Office and Ministry of Justice recommendations to make the informal out of court tools for dealing with anti-social behaviour, more restorative and solution focused.
We spend far too much time in the past, not enough time on the future, too much time on the problem and not enough time on the solution. Its about providing opportunities for moving things from the past, present and then onto the future.
It is now accepted that when we equip staff with good quality restorative skills, they are better placed and more confident in managing conflict/tensions in a more impactful way. More imporatnatly, those responsible for causing harm realise the impact of their behaviour upon others and those who have been harmed have their needs met and a solution focused plan is agreed that starts to move things to the future.
These can be applied in many forms, but those types most commonly resolved using its various skills and approaches include:
Child or adults behaviour
Damage to property
Untidy gardens, rubbish and fly-tipping
Violence or threats of violence
Research and publications
Shapland, J. et al (2008) Does restorative justice affect reconviction? The fourth report from the evaluation of three schemes.
Ministry of Justice Research Series 10/08. Shapland, J et al (2007) Restorative Justice: the views of victims. The third report from the evaluation of three schemes.
Ministry of Justice Research Series 3/07. Shapland, J et al (2006) Restorative justice in practice – findings from the second phase of the evaluation of three schemes.
Sherman, Lawrence W and Strang, Heather (2007) Restorative Justice: The Evidence. London: The Smith Institute. Youth Justice Board (2011) Youth Restorative Disposal process evaluation.