Tackling neighbourhood disputes head on in Birmingham
A partnership project to tackle antisocial behaviour launched in Birmingham earlier this year is already showing success. The project encourages neighbours to work together to resolve their conflicts early on by bringing them face to face to talk through their issues in a calm environment.
Housing and care provider, Midland Heart joined together with West Midlands Police on the Restorative Justice (RJ) project which brings all affected parties together to tackle disputes, such as noise nuisance and verbal abuse, through joint mediation.
A number of events have been held in Birmingham to share the projects success as part of International Restorative Justice Week (16 - 23 November).
The team met with the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson and his deputy Yvonne Mosquito at the Summerfield Centre, Winson Green on Wednesday. As joint funders for the project they were keen to see hear feedback from the project first hand.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: "Restorative justice enables victims to highlight to the offender the impacts of their crime, so that they take responsibility, make amends and apologise.
"It can help prevent incidents from escalating and thus reduces the burden on the police.
Jack Dromey MP for Erdington and Shadow Minister of State for Policing and Councillor John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Management & Homes joined the team on Thursday at The Sanctuary, Castle Vale to speak with partners and customers who have first hand experience of the RJ project.
Councillor John Cotton commented: "This is an impressive project that takes an innovative approach to some difficult issues. It has ensured that victims feel supported, that offenders are made to account and that communities as a whole are made to feel stronger and more empowered. The results so far show that restorative justice works and I'm keen that the whole of Birmingham learns from the excellent work that has been done by the team"
The Project started as a six month pilot and is now running as a year-long project. It is funded by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Castle Vale Community Housing and Midland Heart and currently accepts referrals for the Perry Barr, Ladywood and Erdington districts.
“By bringing everyone together in one room we have seen some really positive outcomes. Those involved are often much more understanding of each others situation when they understand the full picture and by addressing things early we have been able to prevent neighbours from becoming embroiled in bigger conflicts, says Nigel Collumbell, Head of Neighbourhoods at Midland Heart.
Nigel continues: ‘These meetings are often very emotional but this approach fosters better community relations and changes the way neighbours interact with each other. This is a great example of the added value that housing associations can bring.”
Since the projects inception in June 2015 360 cases have been referred to the team and for those that have taken part in mediation 86% of ‘victims’ have been satisfied with the way their case has been handled. Positive outcomes include verbal apologies, a reduction in anti-social behaviour and improved communication between residents.
The team deal with a range of issues including neighbour disputes, noise nuisance and verbal abuse and is effective in resolving new disputes as well as resolving conflicts that have been ongoing for many years.
The project accepts referrals from Midland Heart, West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council, Castle Vale Community Housing and the Birmingham Social Housing Partnership including Family Housing Association, Optima Housing Association, Trident and Nehemiah.
Restorative Justice Week is being supported by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), the Restorative Justice Council, WhyMe? and the Chris Donovan Trust. The campaign called “What would you do?”, encourages people to think about whether they would meet somebody who committed a crime against them.
To find out more about Restorative Justice Week visit www.restorativejustice.org.uk or tweet along with the week’s events using #whatwouldyoudo?