A practical guide to service user involvement in community justice that can contribute to service innovation, and help recovery and support desistance from offending, has been produced by the University of Strathclyde and the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ).
‘Inclusive Justice: Co-producing Change’ is the result of a two year action research project, commissioned by Community Justice Ayrshire and written by Dr Beth Weaver, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Strathclyde, Dr Claire Lightowler, Director of CYCJ and Kristina Moodie, CYCJ’s Research Associate.
The guide aims to support professionals and service users in working together to shape the design, development and delivery of criminal and community justice services.
It builds on learning from the process of establishing three Ayrshire based service user involvement groups, which involved people supported by services and those working in social enterprises, local authorities, third sector organisations and research, documenting the process of implementation from inception and distilling that learning into a practical ‘how to’ manual.
Dr Beth Weaver said:
“Service user involvement in the context of community justice has many benefits – not just for the individual but for services and society as a whole. It can support desistance and recovery, by altering the way people see themselves and their own potential, as well as how others see them and, by providing opportunities for those who have offended to shape change, it can enhance the effectiveness and credibility of services, and promote citizenship, social and community justice.
“People were telling us that one of the biggest barriers to pursuing service user development was that they just didn’t know where to start. It is after all a complex and ambiguous concept, involving many different approaches, methods and expectations, and there is a lack of robust research into the development and outcomes of projects. We hope that this practical guide will address this, by giving a useful and accessible background and providing both service users and professionals with the rights tools and confidence to take that first step and from there, to work collectively and collaboratively to co-produce change and work in the direction of a more inclusive approach to justice.”
While guides on how to go about enlisting and engaging service users are now relatively commonplace, there are few documents that can be drawn on to inform the development, implementation and maintenance of a coordinated strategy for service user involvement in criminal and community justice.
Research into organisations that have attempted to implement service user involvement, even to a small degree, is even more limited – especially in community justice where such practices remain comparatively scarce. The practice guide, informed by research, addresses this gap.
As well as providing a background to the theory, principles, methods and approaches, the guide features practical step by step guidance on supporting service user involvement. It also considers common concerns and challenges, both amongst service users and practitioners, and includes an appendix on evaluation.
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