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Top Ten Tips for Training

Headshot of Pete Smith

Pete Smith, learning, development and innovation lead for Community Justice Scotland is one of only four accredited master trainers in the UK in the risk assessment system Level of Service / Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI). He’s also been a teacher in further and higher education. Here he gives his expert advice on training.

1. Know your learners’ entry level behaviours

Use a simple online survey to gather information about what your learners expect from the course and what specific areas they want to develop. Be curious about entry level behaviours. These are the levels of skill, experience and knowledge that learners bring to the course so you’ll know how far they need to go to master a new skill. Be clear about the learning objectives and content of your training so people can make an informed decision on whether to take part.

2. Set the tone early

Learners’ expectations about a course are set very quickly. What you establish on day one becomes business as usual. If a group is met with an hour’s lecture before they have a chance to do anything for themselves, they’re more likely to settle into a passive learning mindset and it’ll be difficult to introduce active learning later. If the first activities are lively, interesting and involve getting out of their comfort zone then they’ll be more willing to do this throughout the course.

3. Be a guide on the side not a sage on the stage

Trainers often feel like they must be presenting or even ‘performing’ – but that’s just not how learning takes place. Effective training should bring the subject off the projector screen and into the room. Active learning has “stickability” because it’s built around learners’ prior learning and contextualised by their career contexts. Learning that involves research, conversation, experimentation, skills practice, and reflection is more likely to translate into real behaviour change in the workplace. Learners forget what they’re told but remember what they discover.

A classroom setting. One man is writing on a white board while another is watching.
4. Look backwards and forwards

Learning is a career-length process. It’s shaped by prior experiences and future goals. Learners who see your training as a link in a longer chain will be able to see the relevance of their learning and forward plan development. When introducing a new topic or skill, look back and make links to prior learning. Then look forward. Where might this new skill take them and how does it intersect with higher level courses?

5. Show learners what success looks like

Adult learners are pragmatic. Often they want to get in, get qualified and get back to work. Trainers should remember the power of a good example – whether it’s a report, interview, speech or performance as knowing what success looks like will allow learners to assess their own work more effectively. Asking learners to analyse and assess the pros and cons of examples will give them valuable insight into how to apply best practice in their own work. This is especially important if there’s an assessment at the end of the course!

6. Don’t be afraid of technology enhanced learning

Many learners expect to use technology as part of learning. Video conferencing software has features that allow productive work in small groups. It’s possible to jump between breakout rooms, use virtual sticky notes to pool your ideas and collaborate on documents in real time. Using QR codes to access a YouTube clip or simply inviting learners to take pictures of flipchart work on their phones can help make learning faster and more engaging. But sometimes there’s no substitute for bringing everyone together in the same place with a blended approach.

7. Steer clear of “does that make sense?”

You might think a good way to check that people are learning is to ask, “Are we ready to move on?” or “Does that make sense?”. But learners may offer little resistance to moving on from a topic they’ve struggled with, or they tell you that something makes sense if they don’t want to single themselves out. It’s better to consolidate learning by asking questions or setting a task that allows learners to show what they’ve learned so far. Ask “What three things from this activity could you apply at work?” or “How does this concept relate to what we did yesterday?” then you can be confident that everyone is making progress.

8. Don’t be afraid to make in-flight adjustments

Many courses have aims, learning objectives and content prescribed by others. But if content isn’t delivered in the right way for your learners, then the group may never meet its learning objectives. Adjusting how you reach a learning objective is sometimes necessary to meet the needs of your group. Recognise when something isn’t working and experiment with new routes to success. Could a paper case study become a roleplay? Perhaps a reading activity becomes a group discussion, or a written assignment becomes a presentation. Learners engage with content through a variety of different modes. Don’t be afraid to change things up.

An office setting. Five people sitting on desk chairs are in a circle layout and in discussion
9. Make learning inclusive

We all have different needs that impact our ability and readiness to learn. Ask learners about their needs before a session so you can be prepared to provide support. Some people who experience dyslexia benefit from using coloured overlays or coloured paper. Larger text, sans serif fonts or closed captions in videos may make a huge difference to your learners’ experience. If you’re using a venue – check ahead to ensure the building and facilities are accessible to all. To support neurodiverse learners, you might consider a quiet area or cool down space in the form of a breakout room or giving people the option to work independently or with support. Recognising the impact of trauma is crucial, especially if training involves any potentially distressing content. Even the timing of sessions plays a part. Training that occurs late in the day might require some energiser activities or perhaps a more relaxed approach to deal with dipping energy levels.

10. Be compassionate to everyone involved in the training – especially yourself

It’s always worth remembering that learners show a tiny fraction of themselves so we can’t know what’s going on outside of the training room. Disengagement, disruption and absenteeism usually occur for a good reason. Offering support and alternative opportunities to take part can re-ignite someone’s interest in learning – especially if their experiences in formal education were unfulfilling or intimidating. Extend this kindness to yourself. Training can be stressful and for most of us the nerves never really go away! Accept that you don’t need to be perfect and know everything. Guiding a learner to find out something for themselves is infinitely preferable and less daunting than always being expected to have the correct answer up your sleeve. If you’ve had a tough day – debrief with another trainer and reflect on what you could change next time. The key is to learn from difficult days and let them go.

  • Community Justice Scotland’s team regularly train professionals from a range of careers including justice social workers, people involved in the delivery of unpaid work and restorative justice practitioners.
  • More than 1,500 course places were filled in 2022-23 covering all 32 local authority areas across Scotland.

Raising Awareness and Advocacy for Restorative Justice in Scotland 

Community Justice Scotland’s restorative justice development officer Inesa Vėlavičiūtė talks about the role of Restorative Justice in reshaping the justice system 

Volunteering for the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival this year reminded me of the importance of talking loud and clear about the causes we believe in to ensure people make the most out of help available and know how to find it. The festival questioned how to bring about a ‘revolution’ in mental health. This made me think of restorative justice and question what a revolution would look like in a justice system that has not changed for a long time and has been the subject of debate and critique. 

I believe the answer lies in putting our shared humanity at the centre of our systems and prioritising the value of empathy, accountability, healing the harm caused, and community-building. That’s where restorative justice (RJ) comes in. It is a voluntary and consent-based process offering a contact between someone who has experienced harm and the person responsible. It’s a service that is currently available in just a few areas of Scotland, and the Scottish Government aims to make it widely available for everyone. Because of this, as well as its benefits, RJ can indeed be considered revolutionary. It approaches wrongdoing from a holistic standpoint, recognising that the consequences extend far beyond the immediate incident and provides an opportunity to address the harm caused as opposed to solely focusing on punishment. It also provides potential for healing and reconciliation and aims to address the underlying causes of crime and prevent future offences.   

However, for such a transformative approach to succeed in reshaping our society, it is crucial to ensure that its principles are understood and embraced by the public and services. In order to do this, we need more than a shift in systems. We need a shift in mindsets. And to create that, we need effective communication, education, and active engagement with communities and individuals.   

Attending the festival’s events, exhibitions and workshops that ignited conversations and challenged perceptions reminded me that education lies at the heart of any transformative change. By educating individuals about RJ, we empower them to advocate for its implementation. And communication plays a pivotal role too. We need to challenge preconceived notions and dispel misconceptions about restorative justice through open conversations.  

Another crucial aspect in ensuring the success and sustainability of RJ is active engagement with people in shaping the service by giving them a say in what the restorative justice service should look and feel like. In March 2023, Community Justice Scotland were commissioned to complete a series of world café consultations and interviews with individuals who have lived experience of harm in an attempt to discuss their views on RJ and its principles. The discussions considered what people need in a trauma-informed service that respects choice, safety, preparation, togetherness and individuality. The participants’ considered feedback and honest accounts of their experiences are now being used to inform the development of the RJ service across Scotland including a person-centred policy together with screening tools. Empowering those who access services to have meaningful involvement in how their care is designed and delivered ensures the services created will be effective and practical, offering people what works for them.  

Changing people’s perception of the traditional justice system and fostering a belief in the power of restorative justice requires a collective effort. It demands open conversations, community engagement, and creating platforms for dialogue.  By engaging with diverse audiences, including policymakers, justice professionals, community leaders, and the general public, we can encourage that mindshift and inspire people to become advocates for RJ.  Let’s continue the conversation and commit to raising awareness in our journey towards a more compassionate and inclusive Scotland.   

For more information about how restorative justice works, its benefits and Scotland’s progress with the development of services visit our RJ Learning Hub

How restorative justice can repair the broken and heal the harm 

Community Justice Scotland’s restorative justice development officer Inesa Vėlavičiūtė draws parallels between practices used to heal harm experienced by people and how kintsugi transforms broken pottery 

If you break a plate and try to glue the pieces back together it will never look the same as the fracture will always be visible. But what if you could put it back together, embrace the harm caused and repair it to create something new and just as beautiful? 

Just as kintsugi recognises the uniqueness of each repaired object, restorative justice recognises the individuality of each case and takes into account the specific circumstances and needs of the people involved, and tailors the process accordingly. It offers a safe space for open dialogue, empathy and active listening between someone who experienced harm and the person responsible in an attempt to help them understand and process what’s happened.  

For those who have experienced harm, taking part in an RJ process can help loosen the ties to difficult events, integrate the experience into their world view and the sense of self, making it easier to move forward. They often report feelings of empowerment, validation, and achieving a sense of closure, all of which contribute to emotional healing. Through RJ, they are given a voice and an active role in determining what justice means to them. This increased agency leads to a heightened sense of personal power, gaining resilience, which propels the healing process even further.  

For those who caused harm, on the other hand, transformation comes through taking responsibility for their actions and learning the lessons they need to take away from the experience. It leads to personal growth and change, reintegration, similar to how kintsugi transforms broken objects into something functional once again.  

Both restorative justice processes and the kintsugi technique are time-consuming and delicate, requiring patience, skill and active participation. It takes time and effort to turn something that has been damaged into an opportunity for beauty. Both activities encompass the idea that healing is a deliberate, involved, and gradual process – not a quick fix, but rather a journey towards recovery.   

By focusing on people rather than systems of punishment and retribution, restorative justice offers a path towards emotional healing and transformation. Just as kintsugi celebrates the beauty found in brokenness and values repair and renewal, RJ recognises the power in restoring relationships, fostering empathy, and nurturing personal resilience. It reminds us that there is a way for a new life to emerge out of shattered pieces and also directs us to respect the inherent value in people and appreciate their potential to change. By embracing this transformative approach, we can heal both individually and as a society, moving towards a future built on compassion and understanding of ourselves and others.  

How we’re using restorative practices to reach our goal of helping communities through street soccer 

Andy Hook, the Head of Programmes at Street Soccer Scotland recently attended a Community Justice Scotland workshop with restorative justice expert Dr Ian Marder. He shares his views on using restorative approaches that extend beyond the justice system and what he’s learned from taking part in the workshop.  

What does Street Soccer Scotland do and what programmes does it offer to communities across Scotland? 

We provide free football and support for players from disadvantaged backgrounds aged from 12-16 (youths) and 16+ (adults) males and females in 11 towns/cities across Scotland, delivering 60 + sessions per week. For adults, we offer a basic drop in session where people can come along and join in. In addition to the drop ins, we offer other programmes and opportunities to engage the players in positive activities such as Street45 (women`s only Zumba, boxercise, boot camp as well as football), additional support needs sessions, walking football, local and national tournaments, Team Scotland for the Homeless World Cup, prisons (inside and out), education (our own SCQF (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) accredited modules), and network sessions (working with partners in smaller towns and areas). Our youth programme is delivered in areas of multiple depravation, schools targeting disengaged young people, youths in criminal justice system, care-experienced young people. Around 60% of our staff have lived experience and can therefore relate and empathise with the players and their backgrounds. Sessions are 30% about the football and 70% about player engagement and structure, to enable participants to  make positive choices in their lives. 

The organisation emphasises inclusivity, non-judgment, and opportunities for all. How do restorative practices align with these principles? 

Over the years we have created, developed and introduced new programmes based on the needs of our players which I realise now links to restorative practice. Once a year we hold a census of all our players which is anonymous and allows them to not only provide details of their background but to express their opinion on Street Soccer programmes and methods too. This allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our programmes and amend accordingly. Many players over the years have said that street soccer is like a family, as a result of the relationship built up with the staff and others this is grown out of the non-judgemental approach used by the staff. 

What motivated you to attend the workshop organised by Community Justice Scotland with Dr Ian Marder and what valuable insights did you gain that you believe are relevant to Street Soccer Scotland’s work? 

I had read about restorative justice but I struggled to understand how we could implement it in our programmes. However when I read that this was about restorative practices I was keen to understand more and establish how we could use them in our programmes and interactions with the players. 

How do you plan to apply what you’ve learned, and what outcomes or changes do you hope to achieve?  

I feel that many of our methods already use restorative practices by involving the players’ needs into the development and growth of our programmes. As we are a relatively small organisation this enables us to be very responsive to the players’ needs. In future, we will make a more conscious effort to involve the players and our network of partners in working parties to discuss possibilities and developments of new initiatives. 

As the organisation continues to grow and expand its reach, how do you envision restorative practices helping to achieve its goals?  

The concept of our network programme is to engage with local social sector organisations active in their areas to establish a foothold in each area in order to make sessions sustainable by training and developing local players to run the sessions with ad hoc support from our staff. I see the concept of restorative practices as a key way of working in the communities and engaging local support to grow the programmes. We have established that one size does not fit all when you are setting up a new session, therefore it is key that we understand the issues in each area by involving the local community in providing ideas and guidance as to where and how we can have the most positive impact. 

If you are interested in supporting or getting involved with Street Soccer Scotland please contact Andy Hook on 

How community justice works for island life

Colleen Flaws and Mairi Keith are joint community justice coordinators for Shetland. Here they explain what their work looks like on the island
Justice social work members sometimes hold outside meetings with people to help with their wellbeing.


There can be particular challenges for someone in touch with the justice system in a remote location like Shetland. But there are also benefits that come with living in a close-knit island community.

At times, the stigma that can come with a history of certain behaviours isn’t quickly forgotten in a smaller community and can carry through generations, by name association, or relationship association, making it harder for individuals to move on and start over.

But there are also people who are very keen to give second chances, to provide opportunity to change and support those on their journey to more positive outcomes in life. There are those in the Shetland community who can see an individual’s potential and these people help make positive and sustained change possible.

There are many reasons why managing and supporting someone in the community when safe to do so is better than a short prison sentence. For somewhere like Shetland there’s the added issue that we are geographically far away from our closest prison. It’s around 250 miles across the water to HMP Grampian in Peterhead which requires an overnight ferry journey or plane journey plus transport from Aberdeen out to the prison. This has a disproportionately negative impact on the families who have a loved one in custody as travel and accommodation are costly. A community sentence where it’s safe would enable people to stay connected to their loved ones and access support to address their offending behaviour.

Island life can be very different to the mainland and like other remote communities, we can find it a challenge to try to apply strategies, policies and procedures which have been developed and written on mainland Scotland.

But some of our ‘challenges’ can also be our ‘strengths’.  Oftentimes we know each other within services.  We can walk between many of our partner organisations and establish strong working relationships which allows a more holistic approach to case work. 

A client subject to a community-based sentence can build a trusting relationship with their justice social worker, who can literally walk with them on their journey through the system (where appropriate), making links with other services and supporting change. We have a small dedicated team, who all intrinsically work with a trauma-informed approach. They link up with key workers in other organisations who can best support a positive outcome, keeping relationships at the centre of the work whilst paving the way for opportunities to change.

Mairi and I support as lead officers to the Community Justice Partnership preparing and co-ordinating the local community justice plan. This includes the co-ordination of setting, monitoring and publication of performance targets and indicators and subsequent monitoring and reporting on actions, outcomes and achievements against local and national plans. 

We work together closely, finding and using each other’s strengths, interests and areas of experience.  My experience lies mostly in frontline service delivery with elements of strategic planning within the third sector, predominantly in supporting victims, witnesses and survivors of domestic abuse and supporting people with additional support needs (physical, learning, behavioural, social).

I personally enjoy getting to mix with other partners, hearing (and at times seeing) the difference their input can make to the lives of individuals in our community affected by the justice system. 

I like the evidence-based concept that treating the root cause of offending behaviour can prevent further offending and therefore reduce numbers of victims, contributing to a safer community.  Very often someone who has offended or is at risk of offending has experienced trauma themselves, they may have been harmed by others, been a victim or witness, which left unresolved has resulted in myriad of intersecting issues which can result in criminal behaviour.  I am aware of individuals who have been supported to heal their past, develop trusting relationships, make amends and enhance their life skills.  This then allows for healthier and meaningful contribution to our community and society as a whole.

As a partnership, we have the opportunity to lead on positive attitudes and approaches, highlighting the benefits of community-based disposals – where appropriate and safe – for all concerned.


I have a background in developing policy, having studied social policy at university, and have experience in consulting and engaging with communities and stakeholders in Shetland. I also work as a childcare officer within children services, so that has helped me in gathering and analysing data to inform and establish policy.

I also enjoy the partnership working, and being able to see the work that is being done locally really make a difference to those affected by the justice system. For example, the work done by the Bike Project – a programme that supports people in touch with the justice system, giving them employability skills and work placements while also helping to re-establish a daily routine of attending work and the ability to reintegrate into society. It’s great being able to actually see the real-life positive impact that this organisation has on people.

The Shetland Community Bike Project works with people who’ve been in touch with the justice system and offers unpaid work placements as well as mentoring individuals.

Stigma can be a significant issue on the islands. We aim to increase public awareness of community justice to mitigate this real or perceived stigma experienced in order to promote social inclusion and community cohesion.

Partnership working is successful in Shetland as people will often know each other within services. It seems to be a lot easier to be able to find someone who can help you.

We embrace different ways of supporting people. In Shetland we also have a restorative justice organisation called Space2face. They are an independent charity and confidential service which uses restorative practices and the arts to support dialogue between those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for causing harm. Their service is free and they work with those who’ve been harmed by crime and those responsible for causing harm. They enable everyone affected by a particular incident or offence to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.

  • A Community Justice Event Day was held on 31 October with keynote speaker Karyn McCluskey, the chief executive of Community Justice Scotland. The aim was to increase awareness of community justice. There were also presentations from the justice social work team, Shetland’s Anchor for Families – a team offering support and practical help to families, and Space2face. There was also a presentation of the new local Community Justice Plan.

How electronic tags can support people away from crime

Gemma Fraser, Head of Restorative Justice and Recovery at Community Justice Scotland, talks about the real life stories where electronic monitoring has made a difference to people’s lives

Jack was only a teenager when he was arrested and sentenced to a second chance. Electronic monitoring – or a tag – as part of his sentence, made the world of difference in his case.

“I grabbed it. Completed my hours, tag off, working on my anger. Without this chance, I don’t know where I’d be. Who I’d be,” he explained.

“At least I got a second chance from the judge there. My life was in her hands. The right hand was jail, and the left hand was other, and I’m glad I got the left hand.”

Electronic monitoring can help change lives and reduce reoffending when it’s used with the proper support services. I’d welcome more use of it where it’s safe and appropriate for an individual’s case.    

A tag could be part of a community-based sentence to restrict someone’s movement such as a curfew but can also be used to support someone in the community while on bail and also for some people when leaving prison.

This type of sentence with support services can help to reduce further offending by addressing a person’s needs and the causes of offending within a safe, managed community environment. It can support people to comply with the justice system, to attend court appointments and reduce the likelihood of breaching bail or a community-based order.

We know from the evidence that community sentences like this can work in stopping reoffending – but we also hear from individuals about the positive impacts.

Jack from Moray was 19 when he landed up in court after he says he went off the rails and got involved with drugs and alcohol.

“Being in a court by yourself for a change, is quite nervous, anxious, terrified, names getting called out, and when my name was getting called out, you have to go down to the dock. You have to go up in front of the judge, and the PF (procurator fiscal) is explaining, your solicitor’s fighting for you. It’s quite an intense time, because from the minute I was in that dock, I thought I was getting a custodial sentence,” he explained.

“Luckily, I came away, and she turned round and says, ‘I’m going to give you a Community Payback Order of 120 hours,’ and then I got a tag round my ankle for 145 days, and I also got an 18 month supervision order.

“A Community Payback Order, I think it gives you a sort of a wake-up call, and it gives you new skills as well, because you’re doing different things like painting, gardening, woodwork, removals, if you are treating it like a workplace, as I did. So in a way, I can say I enjoyed it as well, I took it as a punishment, but I benefited from it as well, gaining new skills, obviously, to help me get into work as well.

“I won’t be offending with drugs again, and I’m nae dealing whatsoever. It was a big mistake, but I feel that if I keep thinking positively, and having confidence and all that, I can have a good future, that’s where I see my life going.”

Others who have been on electronic monitoring orders have reported what it meant to them.

One man, 32, from Glasgow, said: “Being on tag has made me a better person, I don’t want to go back to my previous way of life.”

Another man, 39, from Airdrie, revealed: “I found it hard to remember my curfew at the start. I feel like I have a better schedule now, having the support of my family made it easier.”

A 35-year-old woman from Alloa said: “I’m not going to get into trouble again after this.”

A Livingston man who’s 37, commented: “Having no night life was hard, my behaviour has been calmer since being on tag. I did find it challenging to get home from work on time before my curfew started.”

How training courses run by Community Justice Scotland are helping to make a difference

David Scott, CJS’s Head of Learning, Development & Innovation reveals some of the very positive feedback received for training delivered right across Scotland

We’ve had a busy year delivering essential training for people to be able to do their jobs across the justice sector. And we’re delighted that feedback shows 94% of people agreed our training was delivered to a high standard.

According to a recent survey, almost three-quarters of our stakeholders or their colleagues have attended training delivered by us. Ratings across all aspects of training were very high and the majority of attendees agreed strongly with each statement. Trainers were particularly highly praised.

We’re really pleased that we’ve been able to make a difference – helping our colleagues in the justice sector develop and widen skills for their day-to-day work. And this will have a positive impact on the individuals they’re working with who are in touch with the justice system.

We have nine colleagues across our learning, development, innovation and Caledonian team who deliver training right across Scotland. The range of expertise in the training team is one of our greatest assets. Across the whole team we have people with backgrounds in teaching, social work, police, intelligence analysis, prison work, counselling, youth work and NHS statistics. Qualifications include postgraduate diplomas in social work and education. When we sit down together to design training we’re bringing a whole array of skills, experiences and knowledge to the table.

And we’ve had some very positive feedback. One person said: “I could not improve it. The course went over and above my expectations.”

More than 1,500 course places were filled in 2022-23 covering all 32 local authority areas across Scotland. Attendees have included justice social workers, people involved in the delivery of unpaid work and restorative justice practitioners. We ran 241 days of live training sessions in person or on Teams and 191 days of training via self-paced working.

In-person training has proved really helpful with one person explaining: “It gave everyone the opportunity to practice group work skills in a safe space.”

But there was also praise for online training. “I really enjoyed the training — very useful to my practice, and engaging throughout. Maybe the best virtual training I’ve been on,” said one attendee.

Getting the balance right between online and face-to-face learning is so important to us. The people we train are incredibly busy and they can’t always drop everything to attend a training day. That’s why it’s so good to know that our online training hits the spot.

Training gave justice professionals a boost. “I now feel a lot more confident in my skills and abilities,” said one. We deliver training on a range of skills to help professionals best support people in the justice system. That includes risk assessment tools, specific practice and group work skills, report writing, restorative justice, Caledonian system domestic abuse work and skills needed for professionals who are supporting those carrying out community sentences.

Our work helps people address the specific needs of individuals who have broken the law to help reduce reoffending and make Scotland safer. Some courses are mandatory – for instance justice social workers wouldn’t be able to do their jobs without the skills taught in our training. We’ve introduced new courses due to demand and now train people involved in the delivery of unpaid work – for those working with people who are carrying out community payback orders. Our team developed a five-day course for those involved in supporting people carrying out unpaid work, which has been approved by Social Work Scotland. This was launched in July and acknowledges the important work being done in the community to support people to complete their sentences.

One person who took part said: “The workers were very professional in the delivery of the training.  I find workers very flexible and accommodating and I have an excellent working relationship with the training team.”

New training has also been introduced for restorative justice practitioners and there’s also training in throughcare assessment for release on licence which is for social workers dealing with individuals being considered for parole.

We also deliver training in LS/CMI (level of service/ case management inventory) which is the keystone in risk and needs assessment used to better understand what’s going on for a person who’s broken the law. LS/CMI draws on a vast international evidence base so we know it works well but better still, it’s been adapted for practice in Scotland. The Risk Management Authority worked to make the LS/CMI system even more useful to our sheriffs, social workers and everyone involved in supporting someone to get the most out of their sentence.

A community payback order with supervision for example is based on a really detailed LS/CMI. It helps social workers to focus on the right things when they’re working with people serving their sentence and reduces the likelihood of reoffending by targeting areas like employment, education, relationships and drug/alcohol use.  Justice social workers need to complete their LS/CMI training with us so we meet professionals at all stages of their careers: some who are newly qualified, fresh out of university and others who may have been in the field for years but are just moving into a justice role.

Feedback for LS/CMI shows 99% agreed training was delivered to a high standard and provided a high quality learning experience. There has been so much praise for our trainers. “I really enjoyed the course and felt the trainer’s positive and upbeat attitude kept everyone motivated,” reported one person.

Training has helped people with their work. One said: “The course reflected my work context perfectly.”

And the training has left its mark. One person said: “Massive impact, it will shape me into a more mindful practitioner.”

Key statistics at a glance from 2022/23:

Why we need to bring together trauma-informed and restorative justice principles to improve people’s experience of the justice system

Community Justice Scotland’s restorative justice project lead Rachael Moss explains why a move to blend these approaches should be explored to provide more safe and appropriate services.

Individuals’ negative experiences of justice are well-documented and have included reports of people feeling re-traumatised, having no voice and let down by the process.[1]

Court has even been referred to as a ‘theatre of shame’ in one report, forcing people harmed to re-live their experience of abuse, with some survivors enduring accidental meetings with the accused in court.

When we ask survivors what justice means, research shows that being believed contributes to their perceptions that justice has been achieved, irrespective of the outcome of any criminal proceedings.[2] In addition, see Figure 1. [3]

Figure 1. Justice is personal to the individual

Does this not make you think about the term ‘justice’ and what that actually means to people who experience harm? Also, how organisations could strive to work together to develop safe and robust mechanisms for individuals to choose how to address harm and its lasting impact by designing a justice process they define and not continuing with what the system prescribes? This doesn’t take away the need for a justice system – it’s about looking at improving it through more trauma-informed, person-centred action.

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a process of supported contact between a person harmed and a person responsible for causing harm. RJ takes on various formats, from direct contact such as face-to-face meetings, indirect contact, for example letter writing, or restorative approaches. These can include resolving conflict in educational settings or addressing secondary victimisation from systems.

RJ offers the potential for individuals to achieve a number of benefits already backed up by research evidence.

Persons harmed can experience:

  • less fear of re-victimisation
  • reduced feelings of revenge
  • fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress
  • increased levels of satisfaction, when comparing their experience to the traditional justice process.

Scottish Government strategies and visions (e.g. Vision for Justice in Scotland (2022), NHS Education for Scotland – Vision for Trauma Informed Practice, Public Health Scotland: Strategic Plan (2020-23))have similar aims – to promote well-being, recovery and safety, reduce re-traumatisation and further harm across communities. So how can RJ support these aims?

This article admittedly presents more questions than answers, but I think that’s a good thing, as it offers a platform for exploration, innovation and collaboration on an agenda I think we all agree on – how the justice system and those who work in it can  become more trauma-informed and responsive to all individuals in Scotland? 

Being trauma-informed is about understanding how trauma exposure affects a person’s neurological, biological, psychological and social development.

Recent research on risk and mitigation strategies used by RJ facilitators in the UK and abroad, has provided the following recommendations for policy and practice to keep people safe: [4]

  • RJ should be based on the assessment of individual people and cases, as opposed to types of people, offence or case
  • Risk assessment and mitigation should focus on the RJ process and the unique needs of individual people
  • Risk assessment of serious harm and reoffending is the duty of criminal justice agencies (e.g. social work or police)
  • Multi-agency working is key to an RJ process, but it should be led by the person harmed and managed by the facilitators
  • The preparation stage of an RJ process is a key measure in identifying and mitigating risk. The more sensitive and complex a case, the more time should be allocated to pre-meetings
  • High quality training and experience are required for the facilitation of sensitive and complex cases and co-facilitation is recommended

RJ and trauma-informed principles have many complimentary factors and the risk and mitigation research paper helped guide my thinking into the exploration of a trauma-informed RJ risk and strengths framework.

By fusing together trauma informed and restorative justice principles I’ve come up with ways to support the development of a risk and strengths framework. This will hopefully strengthen our ability to provide safe and appropriate services that people can access, that reduce re-victimisation and support recovery.

I include the ‘5 Rs’ of trauma-informed practice into RJ development and delivery in Scotland. These are: Realising how common the experience of trauma and adversity is, Recognising the different ways that trauma can affect people, Responding by taking account of the ways that people can be affected by trauma to support recovery, opportunities to Resist re-traumatisation and offer a greater sense of choice, control, and empowerment, recognising the central importance of Relationships. See Figure 3. and how this could contribute to the development of:

  • a risk and strengths framework for RJ
  • safe and legal information sharing for RJ
  • high quality training in RJ in collaboration with experts with lived and professional experience

I offer these tools as a starting point for collaboration, so we can begin to explore how we continue to reduce some of the negative impacts people who’ve been exposed to trauma experience when they access the justice system.

Early this year I will lead a research project to complete a series of ‘world cafés’ with experts with lived and professional experience, to develop a trauma-informed risk and strengths framework for RJ.

‘World café is a restorative approach used to facilitate group conversations where everyone is valued, included, respected and given a voice. Moving away from traditional focus groups, this method creates a safe environment that mimics a café. I look forward to hosting these in the new year and welcome anyone to get in touch who wants to have a conversation.

Figure 2. World Café Guidelines  

Figure 3. Fusion of trauma informed and restorative justice principles 

[1] Thomson, L., (2017). Review of Victim Care in the Justice Sector in Scotland. The Crown Office and Procreator Fiscal Service Review of Victim Care in the Justice Sector in Scotland.pdf (

[4] Shapland et al (2022) risk and mitigation for restorative justice

How communities can play an important role in helping people in addiction recovery

David Best, a Professor in Addiction Recovery at Leeds Trinity University’s Faculty of Social and Health Sciences, explains the science behind recovery

It’s generally recognised that addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition. But in recent years it has become apparent that the majority of people with a lifelong substance addiction – even to drugs like heroin and cocaine – will eventually achieve a stable and drug-free recovery. This results  in a better quality of life, active participation in their communities and some form of ‘giving back’ to repair the harms they have done.

We now have a science for how that happens, based on a concept known as ‘recovery capital’. This refers to the strengths and breadth of internal and external resources a person can call upon to support their recovery journey. For the last 10 years my work has been around how to make measuring recovery capital more accurate and effective and how it can be presented in a form that is engaging, acceptable and meaningful to people on their own recovery journeys.

This has culminated in my development of an evidence-based assessment and recovery planning tool I’ve called  REC-CAP (first published in 2017). This is used to assess an individual’s recovery strengths, barriers and unmet service needs. It supports trained navigators to guide people in carrying out recovery goals and measures success achieved.   It has now been completed by around 20,000 people in the UK, United States, Canada and New Zealand.

Most people who have completed the REC-CAP are based in recovery residences in the United States – which offer specialised support for people dealing with addictions. Indeed, it is not possible for organisations in the state of Virginia who provide recovery housing to get state funding for this if they do not use the REC-CAP and this is likely to happen in Michigan in the near future as well.

This work has allowed us to test who does well and who is at greater risk of drop-out and relapse, which could result in reoffending and returning to prison. In the UK, we are hoping to start a pilot run of the REC-CAP in a number of adult male prisons, but there are some big lessons from the US that we could learn here.  We need a commitment to evidence-based practice and a government commitment to both recovery research and applying that research to everyday practice.

The work in the United States also operates on the understanding that recovery is a process in which a safe place to live is essential and that a recovery model requires a commitment to sober living facilities for people early in their recovery journeys.

More generally, the lesson from our work in the US is about moving away from a clinical environment which focuses on someone’s struggles towards an approach concentrating on their strengths where peers are of central importance. There is a recognition that recovery happens in communities, not in specialist clinics.

I have been very fortunate to be able to champion this work across seven states in the US and I was recently presented with a Recovery Innovations award by the National Association of Recovery Residences at its annual conference in Richmond, Virginia. Not only that, but several housing providers offered personal testimonies about how the REC-CAP and the broader model of strengths-based working had transformed their working lives.

The US will remain at the forefront of innovation and science in this area but the publication of a new drug strategy (“From Harm to Hope”) offers a meaningful opportunity for real change which I hope can be adopted further afield. Innovative practice must be matched by a commitment to recovery science and looking at new ways of addressing the complex and growing challenges faced by families and communities supporting people through addiction recovery.

Restorative Justice: What’s next for Scotland?

Community Justice Scotland’s Head of Restorative Justice Gemma Fraser looks to the future of the service

When I am asked what is next for restorative justice in Scotland I turn to my team work plan and the challenges we still face.

These are around restorative justice – or RJ – being more widely accepted and in securing the necessary resource for this trauma-responsive approach to obtaining meaningful justice for those harmed by crime and offending.  I sometimes forget to reflect on how far we have come, and the fact we continue to take big steps down a path forged over decades by passionate, driven and creative RJ experts both in Scotland and internationally.

While the current economic and social challenges are real, we must remember that while innovation and transformation may seem difficult in the face of wicked problems, without them we are doomed to simply recover broken systems and fix things in the short term without eyes (and hearts) on longer-term gains.  As I was reminded recently, ‘Two things can be right at the same time’.

We must save our justice system and the people within it, but we must also renew and transform justice for those who experience it.

With that in mind, we will now seek to better embed RJ within the core workstreams of the vision for justice strategy in Scotland as a ‘person-centred and trauma-informed’ approach.  In the first half of 2023 this will mean a policy and practice framework to underpin RJ as a parallel process to our criminal and community justice systems.  This will be collaborative to answer questions on how, when and where RJ can be accessed. It will also ensure the voices of those affected by harm are present and reflected in policies as well as the design and implementation of Sheriffdom-based RJ services.  To further support this, Community Justice Scotland will undertake a research project to assess how RJ services can best meet the needs of those who experience harm with a view to tailoring the requirements to services provided.

We continue to work within the Lothian and Borders Sheriffdom area to understand from stakeholders how referrals could be made to a restorative justice service both from individuals themselves and from professionals.  We have also established an expert sub-group to develop a trauma-informed risk and strengths framework in 2023. This will ensure we can work safely with people who wish to explore RJ and consider the right information from them and the services who support them towards best achieving their desired outcomes.

Other plans include expanding our engagement across services, partnerships and sectors to support improved understanding of RJ, and to demonstrate the use of restorative approaches within the criminal and community justice systems.  These include healing circles, story-telling and letter-writing. I would also hope to test RJ with people who are already seeking this, in order to ensure the process is effective, collaborative and safe.

We owe it to those who experience harm, and those who have dedicated their lives to RJ practice, empowerment and choice to keep going.  So we do and we will.  I only hope to make them proud.