Seven jobs created by new Centre of Excellence for ‘restorative approaches’

Wales Co-operative centre highlight just some of the great benefits this social enterprise brings to Wales.

On the launch of Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership, the Wales Co-operative centre highlight just some of the great benefits this social enterprise brings to Wales.

A group of professional restorative practitioners, trainers and ex- offenders have set up a new co-operative social enterprise with the help of the Wales Co-operative Centre. The new company brings together experts in the field of restorative approaches work in Wales. The Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership Community Interest Company is a national organisation that is based in South Wales. The new co-operative delivers restorative partnership activities and bespoke training which benefit the community. Staff, volunteers, service users, and local community members can engage and develop their restorative skills and awareness, as partners together in this innovative organisation.

Restorative approaches are all about building, maintaining, and repairing relationships in any context, and can enable amicable separation where relationships break down. Restorative co-operation with local communities can help those most affected by an issue to work together to problem solve some of the toughest problems and conflicts.

In criminal justice, restorative approaches brings those harmed by crime, and those responsible for the harm, into communication safely, enabling everyone affected to play a part and have their say in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forwards.

In Wales, there is a rapidly developing community of excellent restorative practice and projects across the voluntary, community, public and private sectors. It is believed that the demand for restorative approaches work is likely to expand rapidly in the criminal justice system, community justice, family and education fields.

The restorative approach has received support from high profile figures within the criminal justice system, including Alun Michael, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, who has strongly supported the development of the Partnership. The Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership will promote and develop effective best practice across South Wales, and welcomes new alliances with local restoratively minded individuals, communities and organisations.

Since its incorporation, the new co-operative has been successful in securing funds to deliver services within the field of education, youth work, criminal justice and domestic abuse and have also secured contracts with local authority services and third sector organisations to enable them to deliver this approach.

Working with service users including ex- offenders and recovering victims is a core priority for the company, as their voice is so powerful in enabling change with others.

Sharon* and Mike*, who jointly served 22 years’ in prison, now volunteer and are trained as members of the practitioner team. They are working towards gaining full time employment as restorative facilitators and trainers this year, to engage and work with young people and adults who are offenders and/or victims, and to encourage ex- offenders to volunteer for restorative work on release.

Sharon commented, “Volunteering for WRAP has provided me with an opportunity to grow, and change negative experiences into a positive, and allowing me to give back to the community,”

Mike, who has spoken at several criminal justice conferences stated that “Working with WRAP has helped me to progress and given me the opportunity to help others and share my experiences. I have learnt new skills which has also helped to build my confidence in speaking and dealing with the public and other colleagues.”

The Wales Co-operative Centre has worked very closely with the founders to support them through the whole process of setting up the business as a co-operative Community Interest Company (CIC). The Centre has provided legal structure advice, stakeholder analysis, business planning, support with governance and incorporation and specialised training in Director Responsibilities and policy development.

Julia Houston Clark is Chief Executive of Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership CIC, she commented: “We are really excited to be able to make this dream come true, so that Wales can develop its own restorative capacity from the grassroots. We want to invite anyone who has a passion for problem solving fairly to come and join us, learn and share new skills, and make the co-operative as strong and diverse as it can be. We firmly believe restorative practitioners are stronger together than apart. Like any small and developing business, we needed high quality expert set-up support, to ensure we have firm local foundations, and are sustainable. We couldn’t have achieved what we have done without the fantastic and ethical professional advice and networking the Wales Co-operative Centre provided. We are very grateful, and I’d strongly recommend the Centre’s team and their support.”

Branwen Ellis is a specialist Business Development Officer at the Wales Co-operative Centre. She welcomed the incorporation of the new business:

“The Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership is based on strong co-operative principles. They apply these principles to every aspect of their business and this will stand them in good stead to develop and grow the organisation.

“We wish them every success as their business grows”.

Support for the incorporation of the new business came from the Social Enterprise Support Project hosted by the Wales Co-operative Centre. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Welsh Government.