An update on Step Up in the UK

Today we have a guest post from LynetteRobinson, of Alternative Restoratives. Lynette is thrilled to have had her work in the field of parent abuse recognised by the Youth Justice Board, who have adopted her programme based on the American Step Up model. 

Three years ago, I visited Youth Justice Teams in Seattle and Toledo (America) to observe their ‘Step UpBuilding Respectful Family Relationships’ programmes, as part of my Winston Churchill Fellowship research ‘Interventions and restorative responses to address teen violence against parents’.

The parents and teens who attended these joint group work sessions seemed as interested in me (a UK visitor) as I was in them and their programme! During that first coffee break, one mother came over to me (with a puzzled look on her face) and asked “Do parents in England have this problem too?”    She seemed both surprised and somewhat reassured when I replied “Yes, they do.” And as I sat (week on week) in those amazing group work sessions, with parents and their teens, I quickly realised that many of the family characteristics, challenges and heartaches I was hearing were like those of families I’d worked with as a Youth Offending Team Parenting Practitioner in Wakefield, UK. One distinct difference (back then) however, for families of our own country, was that targeted interventions like ‘Step Up’ were just not available.

Returning home from my 8 week Fellowship trip, I began to realise that we were still in the early stages of awakening (nationally) to this newly emerging area of family violence. What could I do to assist this process, I asked myself?  So I decided to leave the public sector and founded Alternative Restoratives’, initially to create a platform from which to disseminate and share my research findings, knowledge and own experiences of being involved in the first UK hybrid pilot based on the ‘Step Up’ model.   After seeing too many poor outcomes for families, I was greatly motivated by the memories of these, and my feelings of helplessness as a restorative practitioner who had vital ‘tools’ missing from her ‘tool-kit’. I soon realised that many other family practitioners were also experiencing these feelings.

Three years on from that visit to the U.S., the UK landscape in research and practice development looks very different.  Public and professional awareness is expanding rapidly, and we keep hearing about the birth of more and more pilots and programmes, which is amazing music to my ears! Many of these projects are being developed as partnership models such as that in Hull and this is a real sign that agencies are taking a shared responsibility in working together to support families with this issue. (See my earlier post on the work in Hull here)

A very recent and significant landmark of progress is when I was informed (last month) by the YJB that they had added the full ‘Step Up – Building Respectful Family Relationships’ programme to the Youth Justice Board Effective Practice Library.  This brings a real awareness of the model and national accessibility for all our Youth Offending Teams (and other services) of this highly evaluated and evidenced good practice programme.

UK case studies have been submitted to the YJB from practitioners who have gone on to utilise the Step Up model in their own practice, using 1-1 and group work practice, after attending the Alternative Restoratives 2 day training in  ‘Understanding and Working with Teen Violence against Parents – using targeted interventions’

For any interested practitioners, details of our next 2 day training event can be found at or here.

A link to this training will also be available soon, alongside the ‘Step Up’ entry in the YJB Effective Practice Library entry.

Lynette Robinson

Alternative Restoratives

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