How we support our customers to be good neighbours
Our Restorative Justice service helps resolve conflict between customers by bringing them together to discuss their issue and its impact and sign a mutual agreement on how to behave in future.
And in spite of 2020’s restrictions and the ongoing difficulties of holding face-to-face meetings, we’ve had a number of successful outcomes.
Sacha Johnson, Restorative Justice Co-ordinator, said: “The COVID-19 restrictions, including lockdown, are challenging to a service that relies heavily on holding face-to-face meetings between customers and their both signing a ‘conference agreement form’ agreeing their future behaviour.
“But we rose to the challenge and explored different ways of holding discussions including via Zoom video calls, or phone shuttle and – for the period we were able to meet in person – arranging safe, socially-distanced meetings between the parties involved.”
Some of the service’s successes this year have been through face-to-face meetings, while others are a result of restorative justice support and intervention over the phone, prompting customers to resolve issues between themselves.
Sacha explained: “At the beginning of the first lockdown we had to put meetings on hold and manage the cases via phone calls. We found many customers were reporting the situation had improved or that they had been able to talk to one another and resolve their issue.”
One successful resolution over the phone followed a minor disagreement between neighbours that led to a physical altercation. Sacha initially established that the complainant was keen to avoid the situation deteriorating – and that the other neighbour regretted the incident and wanted to try and resolve the issue himself.
“I called both parties to let them know our face-to-face meeting was on hold due to lockdown but I could continue to monitor the case. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the complainant had received a letter from the other party apologising and saying he didn’t have any issue with him. This shows that our intervention had prompted the customer to take the matter seriously and resolve the situation himself.”
Another successful result involved two neighbours with a volatile relationship that started as a noise nuisance but escalated to verbal altercations and stand offs to the point where living next door to each other was unbearable.
Restorative justice arranged a COVID-19 safe environment for the two parties to meet and during the discussion it emerged that generational and cultural differences had led to some behaviour being misinterpreted.
“What one neighbour thought was welcoming, the other found overbearing,” explained Sacha. “But we established that the noise was not deliberate and both parties wanted the same thing: to live peacefully. Both neighbours left the meeting with a much better understanding of each other and confident things would now change.”
Another “noisy neighbour” case was resolved when during a restorative justice meeting, the neighbour revealed she was not stamping round her home on purpose – she was often in pain following a double hip operation.
“This helped the complainant to appreciate that the noise was not targeted. Both parties left with a better understanding of each other and agreed to communicate more amicably in future.”