Garda projects aimed at young people to be expanded

Initiatives for tackling and preventing youth criminality will be ‘strengthened’

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will unveil the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will unveil the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are set to be expanded across the country under a new strategy aimed at reducing the number of children and young people engaged in crime or at risk of being involved.

The Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027, which will be unveiled on Thursday by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister of State James Browne, will declare Garda Youth Diversion Projects will be “strengthened and rebranded” and will be “the first line of targeted support” for children most at risk and their families.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community based and supported youth development projects that offer participants opportunities for education, employment and training as well as sport, art, music and other activities.

The strategy sets out to achieve “full availability of youth diversion projects throughout the State within 2 years”.

The plan was developed under the guidance of an expert steering group which was established in February 2019.

“The overall outcome intended is to reduce harm in communities (including harm to children and young people) by reducing the numbers of children and young people who engage in or are vulnerable to engagement in crime, minimising their involvement with the Criminal Justice System and supporting their personal development,” the plan said.

It also promises to enhance the coordination and delivery of services to increase accessibility of prevention and early intervention services to those in situations who are “more likely to give rise to offending, particularly in situations where it is more difficult for services to engage”.

The strategy proposes to engage with departments and agencies in Northern Ireland to “enhance cooperation and share evidence of effective approaches”. The strategy pledges to be a “living document” and kept under review with annual progress reports published.

There are currently 100 GYDPs located in communities across the State, and they primarily seeking to divert young people who have been involved in anti-social and /or criminal behaviour.

According to the Garda, the projects provide young people with suitable activities to facilitate personal development promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects.