Issues of poverty are intersectional; they impact communities in different ways and for different reasons. Research shows that over one third of LGBTIQ+ people living in London face significant financial hardship and lack sufficient financial resources to maintain a suitable standard of living. A report published in 2017 by the London Assembly Health Committee suggests that financial hardship is exacerbated by experiences of discrimination which make it harder for LGBTIQ+ people living in London to earn money, stay financially secure and pursue their goals.

Those who identify as LGBTIQ+ are also more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, paranoia, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Being LGBTIQ+ doesn’t cause this, but the experiences that many LGBTIQ+ persons face such as homophobia and transphobia make the issues of mental health and poverty more prevalent.

Research also suggests that discrimination against the LGBTIQ+ community increases the chances of homelessness and extreme poverty. Young LGBTIQ+ people currently comprise up to one quarter of the youth homeless population in Britain.  The Albert Kennedy Trust organisation that supports young LGBTIQ+ people, estimated that 150,000 were homeless or at risk of homelessness as a result of intolerance . Stonewall Housing, a London-based organisation which offers specialist advice and support to LGBTIQ+ people, says that two thirds of young people who access their services state their housing problems are directly linked to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

For this reason, solutions to poverty and mental illness need to intersectional; they need to take into account the sexual orientations and gender identities of those who are in need of help. The government seems to be taking this position more seriously, with the Equalities Office conducting research to help better understand LGBTIQ+ people’s experiences of homelessness, the challenges they face, and to enable tailored support to be provided. But who knows how long this may take.

Right now, LGBTIQ+ people are facing a mental health crisis with limited resources and with minimal financial support. Organisations are calling on the government to enact immediate change; with better referral pathways between housing services to ensure the safeguarding of vulnerable LGBTIQ+ persons, homelessness data to include gender diverse, trans and non-binary identities and for protections against LGBTIQ+ discrimination to be strengthened and more accessible. These are only small steps necessary for tackling a pandemic of economic and social violence experienced by the LGBTIQ+ community.

Words by Didier Muller

Many people who have not experienced menstruation find it uncomfortable. From the imagination of pools of gory blood to the reality of using and used menstrual pads, tampons, and other sanitary items. I argue that the only truly disgusting thing about menstruation is the fact that women across the world who are homeless are unable to access basic essential items during their cycle.

Women experiencing homelessness face a unique set of issues because of their gender. The homeless period website reports that though shelters are given an allowance every year to buy necessities like condoms, there is still not an allowance given for sanitary products. If shelters are unable to provide sanitary products, then women experiencing homelessness are simply not able to afford spending £13 to per month on period products which is the UK average amount spent on sanitary items.

So how do women experiencing homelessness cope with their periods? Many women are forced to go to public bathrooms and use tissues to create make-shift protection. Other women use old cloth, rags, towels, and even plastic bags. Clearly many of these methods are unsanitary and can lead to yeast and urinary tract infections. On top of the methods themselves being unsanitary, the circumstance of homelessness itself exasperates this issue. By not having access to a consistent and secure bathroom’s, many homeless women are forced to keep their pads and tampons on for longer time periods. Allegra Parillo and Edward Fellar (2017) reported that even when women do have access to showers at shelters, their access is very limited, once again elongating the time in which one should clean themselves which then maximises the risk of infection.

Though the physical effects of experiencing periods whilst homeless are largely not though about, the mental effects of experiencing periods whilst homeless are even more greatly hidden. When many women are on their periods they experience low moods, mood swings and in the worse-case depression. Women experiencing homelessness experience these feelings at a higher level because of their inability to choose to be clean and because they lack the privilege to rest in a warm bed, not worry about their next meal, and relieve themselves from pain because they cannot afford painkillers or hot water bottles.

Despite the harsh and painful facts of this often-invisible issue, there is a silver lining in that fighters for justice across the UK have strived to change this issue and you can help too. The Homeless Period is a movement started by three colleagues Oli, Josie, and Sara. The group collects sanitary product donations and sends them to women who need them most. Period Poverty is another organisation that does not only help homeless women but women of all circumstances who for some reason are unable to access sanitary products. Other than these niche organisations you can always donate products at food banks and local charities, or simply make a conversation in-person with someone in need and make a small purchase that is a humongous help.

 

Words by Dasia Ngundam

Written by:

      Tara Sheppard-Luangkhot, Peace and Conflict Studies PhD student and RDaVR Intern 

 

     Let’s take a moment to honour the victims of terrorism who have died, and who have been impacted by terrorism and violent extremism in Europe. At RJ4ALL we are inviting our online communities to light a candle on March 11, 2021. On our RJ4All social media (Twitter and Instagram @RJ4All, Facebook @Restorative Justice for All International Institute,  @Restorative Justice Research Network, and/or @Rdavr), there will be posts on March 11, 2021 for an online candlelight vigil. Please post a photo of your candle in our social media comment sections, and let us know how you try to honour victims of terrorism, and how you try to prevent violent extremism and terrorism in Europe and wherever you are in the world

   

     The Global Terrorism Index shows that far-right and religiously motivated terrorism continue to impact Europe and several parts of the world (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2020). RJ4ALL has multiple projects dedicated to preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism in Europe. We are dedicated to healthy communities where people are not victimized by terrorism, violent radicalisation and violent extremism. In our efforts to respond to terrorism, RJ4All’s Internet Journal of Restorative Justice published a special issue on violent youth radicalisation, read more at  https://www.rj4allpublications.com/product/special-issue-editorial-violent-youth-radicalisation-perspectives-and-solutions/   RJ4All also offers several CPD accredited restorative justice e-courses to prevent violent radicalisation and support victims such as “Safeguarding and Empowering Victims of Crime” found at  https://rj4all.uk/online/courses/secv/ , or “Preventing Youth Radicalisation” found at https://www.rj4all.uk/online/courses/preventing-violent-youth-radicalisation/ and “Resolving Conflict and Addressing Group Violence” at https://rj4all.uk/online/courses/positive-futures/

 

     RJ4All Founder and Director, Dr. Theo Gavrielides also offers several free resources on his website at https://www.theogavrielides.com such as  Youth radicalisation, restorative justice and the Good Lives Model: Comparative Findings from seven countries and  Human Rights and Violent Extremism. Dr. Gavrielides has also written several blogs on the topic of violent radicalisation and violent extremism found at Blogs | London, UK

     RJ4All has multiple projects dedicated to preventing and countering violent radicalisation and violent extremism including “Violent Radicalisation, Human Rights and Restorative Justice” https://www.rj4all.info/RJ-Radicalisation . RJ4all has several projects https://www.rj4all.info/current-projects aimed at building healthy, strong and safe communities. Many of our projects are focussed on prevention of violent radicalisation such as YEIP at  https://www.facebook.com/YEIPproject/ and the projects listed below.

   

     Restorative Dialogue against Violent Radicalisation or RDaVR, is one of the RJ4All projects dedicated to preventing violent radicalisation, read more at https://www.facebook.com/restorativedialogue/.

 RDaVR is an Erasmus+ project that aims to research and develop restorative dialogue curriculum to train European criminal justice professionals to prevent violent radicalisation. Interdisciplinary efforts could create more security and safety from terrorism and violent extremism ( IEP, 2020). 

RDaVR will teach professionals to increase restorative justice and restorative dialogue skills that build resiliency, integration, self regulation and positive relationship among adults and youth at risk of violent radicalisation in the UK, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Spain and Ireland. Watch our RDaVR video at https://www.facebook.com/100007381333609/videos/2855409881381695/

     

 RADEX is another RJ4ALL, Erasmus+  project that aims to prevent and redirect youth from violent radicalisation and extremism in Europe. At RJ4ALL, we use concepts of  positive psychology and restorative justice in our positive prevention model underlying our theory of change. 

             At RJ4all, we honour all victims of terrorism by working to end violent radicalisation and violent extremism in European communities. We believe in restoring harm to communities impacted by terrorism, violent extremism amd violent radicalisation. By creating healthy communities where power is shared equitably and dialogue is restorative and peaceful, together we can build resilience against terrorism and violent extremism. 

 

Reference

Institute for Economics and Peace (2020). The Global Terrorism Index Report. Retrieved   from https://www.visionofhumanity.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/GTI-2020-web-1.pdf

By Christy Shaji

When people envision restorative justice (RJ) it is most often seen as an alternative to the current punitive system. However, RJ practices and philosophies are applicable outside of this system and can even help to reduce the number of criminal incidences in the future. This blog outlines the case for adopting restorative values in everyday life in order to create a mentality and culture underpinned by this ethos.

In all facets of today’s society, the immediate response to any wrongdoing is to punish the wrongdoer. This can range from being grounded at home, expulsions in schools, and suspensions at work. However, this authoritarian approach is often just reactive and does little to prevent further occurrences of wrongdoing. This is because this process reduces the involvement of the offender, by doing things to them rather than with them, failing to hold them fully accountable (Watchel, 1999). In contrast, RJ brings offenders and victims together to condemn the offense without attacking the individual. By separating the wrongdoer from the act, RJ provides a resolution that establishes control (like in punitive responses) while offering support to the individual (Watchel, 1999). Such supportive environments help to restore harm done, re-establish relationships and build a stronger sense of community, which allows individuals to re-integrate into society therefore reducing the number of harmful acts (Morrison, 2002).

 

There is research suggesting that the high number of incidences in schools is due to a lack of belonging and community feel (Mirsky, 2003). As schools become more crowded and put more emphasis on grades, students feel less connected to members of the school, which allows for selfish acts to occur more readily. And when they do happen, students are met with punishments like lecturing, detentions, and expulsions. However, studies have found these methods to be less effective at deterring bad behaviour than restorative practices (Watchel, 1999).

 

According to RJ, the primary aim of school rules is to protect students and staff and to ensure fairness. This means that offending behaviour should be seen as a violation of human relationships, rather than just rules being broken (Hopkins, 2002). This perspective puts the focus on restoring the broken relationship by allowing communication between wrongdoers and those affected. This is more likely to result in a sincere apology and changed behaviour as the wrongdoer has to face the impact of their actions. Empowering students and staff to engage in this process helps to foster the sense of community that schools currently lack. This connectedness helps to create a shared sense of responsibility and accountability, which is much more likely to deter misbehaviour.

 

In the U.S., Palisades High School implemented restorative practices and found it had many benefits (Mirsky, 2003). Not only did it reduce the number of disciplinary referrals, it also facilitated positive and collaborative relationships between students and teachers. Moreover, this environment of support enabled students to perform better academically. They found that the best way to practice RJ was to use informal restorative practices often, rather than formal RJ methods as a reactive measure.

 

Restorative practices can also be used to create better communities for youth living in residential care. Studies have found that children in the care system have a greater probability of having a criminal record than children living at home with a parent or guardian (McCarney, 2010). One of the reasons for this difference, is that parents are much more likely to deal with offenses privately at home, whereas offenses in residential care more frequently involve the police. When police are called to neutralise the situation most cases end in arrest. It is especially important to ensure youth in care do not enter the criminal system as existing punishments may not be enough to discourage reoffending. These youth, who feel they have lost everything already, may not see custody as much of a deterrent (McCarney, 2010). Instead, RJ can help to prevent these young people entering the criminal justice system, thus reducing the huge disparity.

 

Three years after the introduction of restorative practices in young people’s residential units, Hertfordshire County Council found a 23% decrease in police callouts (Littlechild and Sender, 2010). The young residents reported having a higher quality of life due to the improved relationships with staff and other residents. They also stated greater empathy and responsibility to others due to improved social capital. Furthermore, the findings showed an improvement in the young people’s conflict resolution skills and anger management. Similar to RJ in schools, RJ in this setting is most beneficial and effective when used immediately in an informal manner, due to the intimacy of the relationships. This again shows the need for RJ as a systemic and cultural shift rather than as a response.

 

It is clear to see that restorative practices can help to reduce conflict in institutions and public spaces, but these methods can also be applied to our personal lives. By navigating our interactions with family and friends guided by RJ philosophies, we can help to reduce conflict and establish more understanding and tolerance.

 

Zehr 2009 – Restorative Justice Philosophy:

  1. Respect others.
  2. Differentiate between the wrongdoer and the harmful act.
  3. Be aware of the impact of your actions and take responsibility when they affect others negatively.
  4. Try to involve those affected by a decision in the decision-making process.
  5. View conflicts as opportunities for learning and understanding.
  6. Sensitively confront everyday injustices.

 

Leading by example, we can assist in normalising these practices, helping to shift the current individualistic culture to a society with a shared sense of belonging and responsibility. Doing so will help alleviate the need for more formal RJ practices and reduce the number of conflicts further down the line.

 

 

 

References

 

Hopkins, B. (2002) Restorative Justice in Schools http://www.rpforschools.net/RP/2007_RP_primer.pdf

 

Littlechild, B. and Sender, H. (2010) The Introduction of Restorative Justice Approaches in Young People’s Residential Units: A Critical evaluation https://restorativejustice.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/The%20introduction%20of%20restorative%20justice%20approaches%20in%20young%20peoples%20residential%20units%20a%20critical%20evaluation.pdf

 

McCarney, W. (2010) A Restorative Justice Approach to Working with Children in Residential Care https://sites.unicef.org/tdad/4williemccarney.pdf

 

Mirsky, L. (2003) SaferSanerSchools: Transforming School Culture with Restorative Practices. http://www.rpforschools.net/RP/2007_RP_primer.pdf

 

Morrison, B. (2002) Restorative Justice and School Violence: Building Theory and Practice http://www.rpforschools.net/RP/2007_RP_primer.pdf

by Eleesha More

Around the world millions of young people work tirelessly each day by using their voice to make positive and lasting change. Young people are not only fighting for their own future but for the future of billions of other individuals and for generations to come. There are approximately 1.21 billion people aged 15-24 years old, which accounts for 15.5% of the total global population. They use their voice to protest and bring awareness to issues such as climate change, to defend their human rights, stand up when being mistreated and address the lack of or failure to take action by governments.

The concerns of young people are often overlooked and undervalued by society as a result of age-based discrimination. It is increasingly common for young people to hear the words ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ or ‘you’re just a kid’ when expressing their concerns about serious social and economic issues. Manu Gaspar, a peaceful protester from the Philippines says that he wants ‘world leaders to listen to young people and their concerns, rather than making condescending remarks.’

In the UK there are many organisations which promote the interests of young people such as The British Youth Council and the UK Youth Parliament. The British Youth Council is a great example of whose work is dedicated towards empowering young people, promoting their interests and representing their views to the government and decision makers at all levels. In addition, the UK Youth Parliament elects individuals aged 11-18 years to bring social change through campaigning. On a wider scale, the European Youth Forum gives a platform to youth organisations in Europe and the Commonwealth Youth Programme works internationally, in 54 countries, to empower young people. These organisations encourage young people’s participation in society and policy because they value their ideas and concerns.

However, the picture is very different across the world, especially in developing countries. In developing countries young people are excluded from any political decisions that will have an immediate and long-lasting impact on their future. It is estimated that 87% of people aged 15-24 live in developing countries which shows the extent to which individuals have little to no control of their future. It is particularly hard for young people to stand up for their rights and beliefs in developing countries because they face a variety of obstacles such as war, dictatorship or lack of resources which all have their own associated risks. Individuals face police brutality, imprisonment, torture and in extreme cases, can lose their lives. Out of fear, many make the difficult decision to not speak out or support those who are brave enough to do so. For example, Manu Gaspar, protests in the Philippines to protect his human rights and consequently faces police brutality and the risk of being shot.

In 2012, Malala spoke out publicly about the importance of girls attending school and their right to education after the Taliban took control of her village and banned girls from attending school. Consequently, she was targeted by members of the Taliban and was shot in the head on her way home from school. Malala had the courage to raise awareness for what she believed was not only important to her but other girls even though it placed her in an extremely dangerous situation. Since her recovery, she has continued her work to advocate for girls and established the Malala Fund, which is dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to achieve a future she chooses. She has been a recipient of a Nobel peace prize and attended Oxford University. The Taliban tried to take her voice away and show others what was to come if they continued to stand up and speak out for their rights. This shows the extremes that people will go to, to suppress the voices of others and how age has no effect on their decisions.

The voices of young people are very powerful and with the use of social media are amplified. Social media is a tool that can be used to not only relay information to a larger audience and spread awareness but allow for movements to take place globally. Following the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland Florida, the students announced a march in order to demand gun control reform after 17 of their classmates lost their lives. In addition, they created the ‘Never Again’ campaign in order to prevent tragic events like this occurring in the future. With the use of social media, #MarchForOurLives was used over 3.6 million times and allowed the issue to be broadcasted globally. As a result, this attracted the attention of a number of celebrities who donated to the cause and corporations who decided who cut ties with the NRA.

Furthermore, the march attracted millions of individuals and turned out to be the largest single day protest. The group successfully influenced hundreds of thousands of young people to register to vote and in turn there was a historic youth turnout in the 2018 midterm elections which resulted in 46 NRA backed candidates to lose. Although bills to tighten gun restrictions are on hold in congress, progress has still been made in other areas. For example, Florida announced the ‘Red Flag’ legislation which allows the removal of firearms from individuals showing signs of violent behaviour, the age to buy a gun was increased to 21 and the US Department of Justice banned bump stocks. This shows that young people have the power to make change and but just need the chance. The changes made to legislation were influenced by millions of young people who demanded change.

Furthermore, Greta Thunberg, an environmental activist, staged a protest outside the Swedish parliament to demand a reduction in carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. This event gained a lot of publicity and started an international climate movement called Fridays for Future whereby students skip school to demand action to be taken towards tackling climate change. Social media has allowed this movement to be backed by over 14 million students who protest in 7500 cities on Fridays. Although no significant and immediate policies have been implemented to reduce environmental degradation, there is an ‘army’ of individuals who have taken immediate action by changing their lifestyles and encouraging others to do the same because of inaction taken by world leaders.

Aditya Mukarji embarked on a door-to-door campaign in India to stop the use of plastic straws. Within 5 months of hard work and dedication he was able to replace over 500,000 plastic straws in New Delhi with environmentally friendly alternatives. Over the course of two years Aditya prevented the use of 28 million plastic objects by persuading 150 establishments to go plastic-free. This begs the question; how much plastic use could be avoided in a nation with over one billion inhabitants if the government adopted a plastic straw ban? This indicates how influential young people can be and the impact they can have in their local communities. That is why it is crucial that world leaders recognise the issues which are being highlighted by young people and work with them to achieve an outcome that will be beneficial to society.

Giving young people the opportunity and platform to have their voices heard is extremely important as they are the future. Any decision or policies enforced now will have a greater impact on young people than any other group in society. We all know what greatness can be achieved when people work together so it is vital that world leaders, people of influence and power not only work with young people but become more open minded to the idea of change. It begs the question: what position would we be in if world leaders took more notice of the voice of young people? It is important to note that change cannot take place overnight but with hope, dedication and hard work we can work towards a brighter future.

https://www.un.org/development/desa/youth/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2020/07/2020-World-Youth-Report-FULL-FINAL.pdf

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/08/ten-young-activists-shaping-the-world-they-want/

https://malala.org/malalas-story?sc=header

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-020-09911-4

https://marchforourlives.com/mission-story/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/26/gun-control-movement-march-for-our-lives-stoneman-douglas-parkland-builds-momentum

https://giffords.org/blog/2019/03/7-ways-america-changed-since-the-march-for-our-lives/

 

The European Youth Work Convention (EYWC) is the central platform for discussing the latest developments in youth work practice and youth policy in Europe. Professionals and multipliers from youth work practice, youth policy and youth research (the youth work community of practice) came together at the beginning of Decemeber to kick off the implementation of the European Youth Work Agenda (EYWA).
As a conclusion to the different panels and discussions, a  final declaration of the 3rd European Youth Work Convention was produced. You can access it here.

Dear Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP,

We write on behalf of the Restorative Justice for All International Institute (RJ4All), a charitable NGO with a mission to advance community cohesion and human rights. Since our inception, RJ4All has carried out numerous Violence Against Women (VAW) programmes, and through the evidence that we have collected we wish to add our support to the views and findings of the recent Report on the Decriminalisation of Rape as well as other academic evidences on the matter including our own such as:
• Gavrielides, T. (2018). Human Rights and Restorative Justice, London: RJ4All Publications. ISBN 978-1-911634-00-3.
• Gavrielides, T. (2018). Equality Matters for Restorative Justice, London: RJ4All Publications. ISBN 978-1-911634-03-4.
• Gavrielides, T. (2015). “Is Restorative Justice appropriate for Domestic Violence cases?”, Social Work Review, XIV, nr. 4/2015, pp. 105-121
• Gavrielides, T. and V. Artinopoulou (2012). “Violence against women and restorative justice”, Asian Journal of Criminology, Volume 8, Issue 1 , pp 25-40 ISNN 1871-0131.
• Gavrielides, T. (2017). “Structured & Unstructured Restorative Justice: The case of violence against women” in Halder, D. and Jaishankar, K. (Eds). Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Overcoming Violence Against Women, Pensilvania: IGI Global Publications.
RJ4All has often pointed out its concerns in relation to the proper functioning of the criminal justice system and its various agencies. We are particularly concerned in relation to carrying out consistently their legal functions in relation to the investigation and prosecution of rape. Protestations have been made to the contrary, but figures and the testimony of survivors do not lie.
We have long advocated for the empowerment of survivors to represent their own needs and reach their own outcomes through restorative justice. In the current situation the Criminal Justice agencies (the CJS) actually prevent this from happening – they do not deliver just or positive outcomes and as currently constituted they fail victims of rape in particular. We are also currently carrying out a VAW EU funded programme https://www.achance4change.eu/ which we would be keen to present to you.
When state agencies fail so fundamentally it becomes critical for Government to take action. Legislation is needed. A Victim’s Law has been years in the waiting and RJ4All has expressed its concerns on a number of occasions. We refer you to some examples of the evidences we have presented on the matter:
• Gavrielides, T. (2017). “Collapsing the labels “victim” and “offender” in the Victims’ Directive & the paradox of Restorative Justice”. Vol 6 International Journal of Restorative Justice, p. 368-381.
• Gavrielides, T. (2015). “The Victims’ Directive and What Victims Want from Restorative Justice”, Victims and Offenders Journal, DOI 10.1080/15564886.2014.982778
The time has come to legalise victims’ rights. The Victims’ Code is not enforceable and is not complied with. The role of the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses (V.C.) needs to be enhanced as a matter of urgency and in line with the recent report into the “Constitutional Powers of the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales.” We advocate for the following measures:
• Legal Representation for victims: There is a pressing need for victims to have access to proper legal representation, both in cases of public interest and to enforce victim legislation and regulation. The status of the victim in court as a merely a witness for the Crown is archaic. Ask any woman who has been raped whether she regards herself as not being a legal “party to the proceedings?”
• Right of Address: We advocate for the law to be changed so that victims have the right of address in court, especially in certain circumstances where their character and evidence are challenged as being perjured, or where the allegations made against them may place them at risk.
• Civil prosecutions: As an interim solution, victims should be enabled to pursue those cases set aside by Police and CPS in the civil courts. Victims should have the ability to bring their case to court, and to a conclusion, in a timely manner.
• The Role of the Victims’ Commissioner should be enhanced in line with the recent report into the “Constitutional Powers of the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales.” Especially in relation to powers to enforce compliance with relevant regulations and also to receive and direct complaints.
• The role of restorative justice as an educational and prevention tool will need to be revisited with genuine intentions. We have evidence to believe that previous government attempts to promote restorative justice were based on the wrong premise following false assumptions and promises. A wider and more inclusive engagement with restorative justice practitioners working in the community and not only through top down institutions will need to take place.
We will continue to use our research and community-based projects to empower and protect victims. RJ4All would be keen to engage with your Department to take these recommendations forward.
Best wishes,
Ben Lyon   
Chair of the Board 
Dr. Professor Theo Gavrielides 
Founder & Director 
Gabrielle Brown 
RJ4ALL Board Member
Download the letter here

By Dr. Theo Gavrielides RJ4All Founder & Director
15 Dec. 20

A recent study compared how much people working in the private, public and charitable sectors boast about their achievements. Obviously, those working in the voluntary sector came last. This is not surprising. We do what we do as part of our civic duty as most of us make our work … our life. We don’t distinguish the time that we put for ourselves and families from the time we put for others. They are all the same! Although the results of this survey were not surprising, they were helpful as they forced me to look back at what we have collectively achieved this year, and pause for a minute. That minute left me full of gratitude and humility.

2020 has been a special year in so many ways. COVID19’s unprecedented health and socio-economic impacts can only be compared to what followed World War II. As we watched the death toll rise day by day, those of us working in the charitable sector felt double frustrated and lost. The government’s social distancing measures meant that we either had to find new ways of responding to our communities’ needs or accept defeat and either shut down temporarily or indeed close.

At RJ4All, we felt that we had to raise to the challenge. We closed our office and quickly set up a voluntary, home-based infrastructure that simply allowed our staff and volunteers to continue our charitable services. We simply could not watch the spiralling effect of COVID19’s consequences whether these related to health or other socio-economic and educational challenges. We also knew that if we don’t raise to the challenge now, our founding restorative justice values of equality, power sharing, respect and dignity would be betrayed.

But with suffering, inequalities and death, I have also seen our communities coming together like never before. Funders collaborated to coordinate a response to the crisis, while we saw our volunteers increasing by 120% just in 6 months. I could not be more proud of my team. Despite the many challenges, it is without doubt that 2020 has been the strongest year so far for our charitable institute.

We were honoured to have received the Highly Commended Award for the Best Charity in the 2020 Southwark Business Excellence Awards.  RJ4All also received the ESC Quality Mark, signifying that all our policies are compliant with European standards for safeguarding, volunteering and work placements. Moreover, we were one of the 2020 Top 100 social enterprises in the UK (NATWEST SE100), while the Cabinet Office asked us to apply for the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.

A huge thank you to the team, the Board, the Patrons, our funders and supporters. A personal thank you to you who is reading this blog. As you read our 2020 Impact Report, please consider joining us as a member, volunteer or just supporter. We need more people like you in these times of solidarity and change. Happy new year from the RJ4All family.

 

Watch this video to discover our current priorities and future plans.

By Sandra Jøgensen

Throughout the years, the Erasmus+ programme has benefitted a lot of people across Europe, including individuals and organisations from the UK. Erasmus+ is an EU funded programme made to support education, training, youth, and sport in Europe. The aim of the programme is to promote growth, employment, equity and social inclusion in Europe through the mentioned fields which are considered essential for the promotion of common European values, social integration, enhancing intercultural awareness and understanding as well as creating a sense of belonging to the same community among the European citizens. Erasmus+ also promotes the inclusion of people with disadvantaged backgrounds such as newly arrived migrants.

Another aim of the programme is to empower young people to actively participate in society and shape the democratic life in Europe by enhancing their skills and competences as well as providing them with professional skills that are required by the labour market in an attempt to enhance employment across Europe.  Thus, this programme is considered an investment in knowledge, skills, and competences that benefits both individuals, organisations, and society as it contributes to growth, equity, prosperity and social inclusion in Europe and beyond (European Commission, 2020, p. 5).

Through the Erasmus+ programme, young people will be provided the opportunity to study, volunteer or gain work experience through training or internships abroad. Through these opportunities they can develop new skills, gain international experience, and enhance their chances of employment in the future. It also provides staff of educational institutions and civil society organisations the opportunity to teach or train abroad which contributes to enhancing their professional practice, creating an international network and gaining new perspectives and ideas. Lastly, the programme also presents organisations the possibility to collaborate with international partners to share best practice, enhance innovation, and offer new opportunities to young people across Europe.

The programme is funded by the European Union, meaning that participants will be covered financially by the European Union when joining the programme which is what makes it possible for many people to go abroad either to study, volunteer or work, as they do not have to worry about how to cover their living expenses in a foreign country. Furthermore, the funding also makes it possible for various projects to be carried out in collaboration with European partners (Erasmus+).

In practice, all this means that the Erasmus+ programmes offers many benefits for both young people, professionals, and organisations, though many of the benefits are often mentioned in relation to young people.

The opportunity to go abroad either to study, volunteer or train is a great experience for young people. It enhances both personal as well as professional skills, as studying, volunteering or working abroad brings with it  a lot of useful knowledge and positive experiences such as testing and learning knew professional skills, gaining more knowledge and awareness of other cultures and their way of doing things, creating new friends and a new network, learning new language skills, and gaining new perspectives on things. Furthermore, by challenging yourself to be in a new an unknown situation, you will surely develop a lot of interpersonal skills and become more mature, independent, and confident as you also learn more about yourself and what you are capable of (Erasmus+).

All these experiences and skills empower young people and contribute to a positive development of their competences. This experience will also benefit young people in the future as it will help them develop skills that are invaluable when seeking employment in the future. International experiences look good on a CV and can help you stand out from the many applicants as many employers regard international experience significant when recruiting new employees (Araujo, 2020). Actually, research has found that people who have had an Erasmus exchange have enhanced employment possibilities and find work more quickly after graduation (Cole, 2018).

However, individuals are not the only ones enjoying the benefits of the Erasmus+ programme. The programme also enhances the connection the UK has with the rest of Europe, as many international students make use of the programme to be able to study in the UK. These students contribute to the international community and diversity present at many of the universities across the UK. In addition to this, these students also make a large economic contribution through their spending in the UK. Lastly, these students help strengthen the international connections of UK as they spread their knowledge about the UK, meaning that the programme also enhances the international promotion of the UK which could lead to further economic and political benefits (Cole, 2018).

Following Brexit, the future of the Erasmus+ programme and its implications for the UK are still unknown. Until the end of 2020 the Erasmus programme has continued to apply for the UK in the same way as before the UK opted for leaving the European Union. However, the government has yet to decide whether the UK will continue to be part of the programme after leaving the EU, as they state that they are open to participating in certain elements of the programme on a time-limited basis, if the terms are in line with UK interests (Reuben, 2020).

However, the government is also considering replacing the Erasmus+ programme with a domestic alternative that will continue supporting international exchange. That being said, it will be difficult to reach the same benefits through a national programme, thus implicating that many of the mentioned benefits of the Erasmus+ programme could potentially be lost to the UK and the UK citizens (Reuben, 2020).

This could be a fatal blow for UK universities as many foreign students may not be able to or want to come to the UK to study without any financial support. This could lead to economic issues, as the economic contributions from exchange students will be heavily reduced. Furthermore, it will make it more difficult for UK citizens to have the opportunity of going abroad and gain the skills and positive experiences which this entails. It will make it especially hard for citizens with a disadvantaged background as they may not receive the necessary support through another programme and can therefore lose the opportunity of going abroad due to their conditions, thus resulting in a more unequal society.

In general, it may also imply that young people will have difficulties gaining the necessary experience to enhance their job opportunities or will not be prepared for working in an international setting. This especially applies to students of language degrees where studying or working abroad is a compulsory part of the degree, meaning that many students may refrain from choosing language studies in the future if they do not have the economic means to finance a stay abroad by themselves. By limiting the opportunities to gain professional skills through international exchange and experiences, the labour market could also suffer and make it harder for the UK to compete with other international companies who may have more experienced and diversified employees (Fazackerley, 2020). Thus, the withdrawal of the UK from the Erasmus programme could have major consequences, both for the citizens of the UK but also for the society.

As a Danish citizen, I have personally gained a lot of benefits from the Erasmus+ programme. It has provided me both with the possibility of volunteering for an organisation in another country as well as studying and doing an internship abroad as part of my university studies. All these experiences have made me gain a lot of interpersonal as well as professional skills and, overall, just given me some amazing experiences in different countries where I got to know amazing friends and learn new things every day. I would not want to be without all these experiences as they have given me so much and I would encourage everyone, who has the opportunity of going abroad through Erasmus, to utilise it.

However, without the funding from the Erasmus+ programme, I probably would not have been able to go abroad so many times and gain so many positive experiences that have contributed immensely to the person I am today. I would therefore be very sad if the young people of the UK miss out on this amazing opportunity to develop themselves both professionally but also personally. Therefore, it is important to make the government aware of what the withdrawal from the Erasmus+ programme really means, both to individuals but also to the society.

 

 

Araujo, C. (2020) 10 Benefits of the Erasmus Exchange Program. Eurosender. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from: https://www.eurosender.com/blog/en/10-benefits-of-erasmus/

 

Cole, J. (2018) Why Erasmus is important for students. Russell Group. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from: https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/the-importance-of-student-exchange/

 

Erasmus+. About Erasmus+. Retrieved November 3, 2020 from:

https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/about-erasmus#

 

Erasmus+. Why take part? Retrieved November 4, 2020 from:

https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/why-take-part