SUNDERLAND YOUTH OFFENDING SERVICE (YOS) has received national recognition with the Restorative Service Quality Mark (RSQM).

The City Council’s Youth Offending Service is one of only 50 organisations in the country to receive this award from the Government funded Restorative Justice Council, for achieving the highest professional standards in its work with the victims and perpetrators of youth crime to help reduce rates of re-offending in young offenders.

The RSQM is available to organisations which provide a restorative service to the public across a wide range of sectors including criminal justice, community-based agencies, care and education, but who must meet strict criteria and achieve consistently high standards to achieve it.

The award follows vigorous and regular inspections from RJC staff over the last twelve months including site visits, to see how victim services are being delivered by Sunderland Youth Offending Service with community safety partners including Northumbria Police and office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to help and support the victims of crime.

Staff and volunteers offer a choice of a restorative approaches to the victims of crime and anti-social behaviour. This can include bringing victim and offender together to discuss the individual impact it had on the victim’s life, and discuss possible restorative justice options available to help both sides come to terms with what has happened.

This could include a formal meeting between the victim and offender, victims receiving answers to any questions they may have or a letter of apology/explanation, or direct reparation to repair the harm done such as the offender repairing damage to the victim’s property or carrying out environmental improvement work in the local community.

Examples have included;

  • Victims of burglary who requested the damage be put right by the young person, this was carried out with the victim present and the young person apologised directly to the victim.
  • A victim of criminal damage who requested direct reparation at their home. Under the supervision of the Youth Offending Service this was carried out and the victim expressed their thanks to the offending service supervisor

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Louise Farthing said: “Bringing offenders face-to-face with the victims of their crime through restorative justice, helps them better understand the consequences of their actions on the individual person or family involved and also on the wider community.

“It also gives the offender an opportunity to in some way recompense for their actions, either directly with the victims or indirectly through the community with some kind of unpaid work or reciprocal arrangement.

“Creating greater mutual understanding and appreciation will help prevent a potential re-offender from repeating the same mistakes and ruining their own and other people’s lives, and re-assure victims that their needs are taken into account when considering the implications of any criminal and anti-social behaviour.”

Sunderland Youth Offending Service based at Lambton House works with young people across the city to prevent offending and reduce the risk of re-offending. This includes more than 30 restorative justice schemes suggested by the local community including, painting and decorating, community conservation, tree planting and graffiti removal.

Chief Executive of the Restorative Justice Council, Jon Collins, added: “I would like to offer my congratulations to Sunderland Youth Offending Service for having successfully completed the RSQM. This is a mark of the organization’s dedication to ensuring the highest standards in safe and effective restorative practice.

“ The Quality Mark is a badge of quality that demonstrates that a service provides safe, high quality restorative practice which meets all the six restorative service standards we expect from strong leadership and strategic/operational planning to partnership working, support and developing people, service delivery evaluation and improvement.

“ With all those things in place you know that organisations like Sunderland Youth Offending Services have not only worked hard to achieve high standards, they will continue to work hard together to maintain and even improve them.”

Sunderland City Council Director of Children’s Services, Alex Hopkins whose responsibilities include Sunderland Youth Offending Service added: “Sunderland Youth Offending Service has been involved with youth justice and restorative justice for more than ten years. We applied for the RSQM to demonstrate our commitment to the high delivery standards this demands and continue to strive to make our service a better one for victims.

“It is important to have recognised standards to ensure that all victims can have confidence when offered restorative justice, and assured that their views and opinions are at the centre of all decision making during that process.

“We also ask for feedback and 98% of victims of youth crime in Sunderland have told us that they are satisfied with the Restorative Justice Service offered by the RJ team. Many have stated their appreciation and have said ‘your help has made such a difference  and ‘it was good to be able to talk to the young person’.”

The Director of Children’s Services added: “Restorative Justice offers victims a choice and a voice. Victims have said ‘I feel my voice has been heard’ and ‘it was good to be listened to’ which helps highlight how and why our approach to restorative justice in Sunderland is working.”