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The Importance of a Good Question

BLOGS | 4th November 2020

As part of our Talking Justice blog series, Lynne Thornhill, Community Justice Co-ordinator in Stirling, reflects on the challenges in our justice system – and how she’s actively driving improvements to make a difference at a local level.

The Justice System is undoubtedly complex.  The community justice workforce is a wide collection of organisations who provide lots of different services across Scotland. The interdependencies across the justice system are vast, but not always recognised or indeed used to best advantage. There is also much diversity amongst justice populations – adding another layer of complexity in terms of our individual and collective responses.

Despite the complexities, it is essential to hold on to the fact that amongst those wide range of services and organisations, there is clear alignment of the ultimate outcome we are all seeking to achieve: an individual has the tools and support to fulfil their potential.

Surely then, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that every point of contact counts as an opportunity towards ensuring this. We can only do that if we identify their needs, actively listen, and understand their life experiences.

Asking the right questions

The importance of a robust evidence base to inform our collective understanding cannot be underestimated.  The local Community Justice Partnership in Stirling is embarking upon an exciting new research project that will support peer-led researchers to engage with people in the justice system.

The aim is to listen to people with lived experience and start to understand some of the underlying causes of certain behaviours and whether our local services are person-centred and inclusive

These findings will be triangulated with local data analysis, local service mapping and a community justice workforce consultation.  The success and value of this evidence gathering will depend on asking the right questions, and of course, as a Partnership, how we act on the answers.

What happens when you ask the right question

The right questions allow you to drive improvement at every opportunity.  At the end of last year, we asked the question ‘are we assured that all individuals who are entitled to support after serving a short-term sentence are aware of this?’ That simple question led to the development of a stakeholder group with wide representation from statutory services and the third sector with a role or vested interest in supporting successful transitions. A collective vision for delivery was identified and laid over the current process to identify areas of focus and next steps. The result – Stirling Transitions and Re-integration Support (STARS) – a co-ordinated multi-agency approach to supporting the needs of individuals transitioning from custody to community. So, the answer to that questions now is yes we are collectively assured and working together to continually improve the quality of that support offer.

It is so much easier to ask the right question when you feel knowledgeable and empowered to do so. Fostering that continuous improvement culture and identifying collective action as a partnership undoubtedly requires professional curiosity, candid conversations, the parking of preciousness, transparency and trust. But your reward….the innovation and change that comes from this high support, high challenge.

Are you empowered to ask the right questions? 

Our Talking Justice blog series brings together reflections from across our society. We are committed to changing the conversation about justice, increasing understanding and support for what will make Scotland better for all of us. To that end, we have have created a resource that maps out the Scottish justice system. This has been developed into an interactive digital tool: Navigating Scotland’s Justice System.