Greater use of ‘restorative practice’ in disadvantaged families, communities and in schools would help to prevent homelessness, veteran social campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said.
Restorative practice is a form of dispute resolution so that conflict and tensions can be dealt with in a healthy fashion.
When disputes spill over into the criminal justice system, restorative practice involves bringing those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into contact in a bid to repair the damage.
“Homelessness is often caused by breakdown in community and family relationships, when one party has to leave and has nowhere else to go,” said Fr McVerry.“Restorative practices can help to equip people with better skills to address these conflicts and avoid the worst outcomes.”
Speaking at the launch of two reports on the subject, the homelessness campaigner called for a national network of restorative practice centres. He said these could intervene and deliver training and support in communities and families where there are signs of difficulties.
He welcomed the publication of two reports, Towards Excellence in Restorative Practice — A Quality Assurance Framework for Organisations and Practitioners, and A Community-Wide Restorative Practices Programme Implementation Guide.
Also speaking at the launch was trainer and facilitator Jim McGrath who said the greatest benefits could be achieved by introducing a restorative approach to children as young as four.
“Traditionally the approach has been seen as appropriate for adults who are already in situations of conflict, however the best use of restorative practices is to introduce it as early as possible, working with primary schools,” he said.
Chairperson of the Restorative Practices Strategic Forum, Marian Quinn, said the Quality Assurance Framework was “designed to provide clear, practical information and encourage and support individuals and organisations to achieve high-quality restorative practice consistently for the benefit of all”.
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