Minister Stanton launches key reform and development actions for Youth Justice in Ireland



27 March 2019


The Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton TD, today launched two significant initiatives for the reform and development of Youth Justice in Ireland. The initiatives, which build on research commissioned by the Department of Justice and Equality and undertaken by the University of Limerick, will kick start development of a new Youth Justice Strategy and a Reform and Development Programme for the network of 106 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) located around the country.


The GYDP Action Research Project will work with fifteen GYDPs, across ten counties, over a two-year period in order to identify and disseminate best practice in working with young people at risk. The 15 projects have volunteered to work in a partnership with the Irish Youth Justice Service and a research team from the School of Law in the University of Limerick to engage in an ‘Operation Transformation’-type programme of change where the findings of research due in June 2019 will be used as the basis for researchers and youth professionals to design new, more effective ways of working using the same resources.


Speaking to representatives of the participating projects, Minister Stanton said: “Too often we get research reports which have useful findings and recommendations but don’t get implemented. The next steps with these research studies will be different. We have a determined collaboration of committed officials and local practitioners ready for change and a team based in the University of Limerick that is producing top-class practical research. I commend the fifteen projects stepping forward for this challenge. Much like Operation Transformation, you have agreed to put yourselves in the spotlight, to hear things about your practice that you might not want to hear and to dig deep in pursuit of the prize of inspiring young people to positive change.”


The underlying research is an international review of the types of relationships that are most effective in bringing about positive change with young people. It is one of a small family of studies worldwide that examine the detail of what productive relationships between young people and front-line workers should look like. The research considers what the evidence says about really effective relationships and how they can bring about transformative change.


Making it Count is a second research project, jointly funded by the Irish Research Council and the Department of Justice and Equality, which compared data recording practices in the youth justice system in Ireland to six other jurisdictions generally considered to be top performers in terms of data collection. The policy question asked is ‘how useful is the data we keep in the youth justice system in informing the tax-payer about whether it is working or not?’. The findings of this report will be used to inform changes in data collection practices across the youth justice system with the objective of providing better evidence to enable the design of more effective youth diversion services.


Minister Stanton added: “In many evaluations of funded programmes, the first finding is something like, ‘the data was poor and told us very little about whether the investment was worth it’. This research project looked at our data collection practices so that we can increase our knowledge of what is actually effective. A core element of this study was that we compared our practices against other jurisdictions. While it turns out that we compare reasonably favourably, I want to use this report to help change practices in Garda Youth Diversion Projects and to reform data collection across the youth justice system.”


Professor Sean Redmond, who leads the Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) Unit in the University of Limerick’s Law School, said: “This is an incredibly important partnership between the University of Limerick, policy makers and practitioners. Our mission is to produce high quality, relevant and practical research that can change things on the ground and help make things better for young people and communities. Whether it is about data, relationships or helping to unbuckle the stranglehold that crime gangs have on certain neighbourhoods, good quality research can have a real impact. It is a real privilege to work alongside policy makers willing to make the leap and humbling to work with youth professionals willing to look in the mirror and compare what they see to what the latest evidence is saying.”


Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, added: “How we collect, preserve and use data is integral to the design and implementation of public policy. Making it Count provides a valuable insight into data collection practices in the youth justice system and demonstrates the potential for evidence-based research to positively impact on policies currently shaping key areas of Irish society. The development of research partnerships with government departments and agencies is a key priority for the Irish Research Council, enabling policy and decision-makers to benefit optimally from the networks of diverse expertise at the forefront of new knowledge and understandings in our research system.”



 ESF 2014 to 2020 logo     EU-EMBLEM-ENGLISH-JPEG

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are part supported by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning (PEIL) 2014-2020.


Note to Editors:


Garda Youth Diversion Projects

The 106 local GYDPs are allocated some €18 million government funding in 2019 and are based in communities throughout the State, working with 4,000 young people at any one time. By building purposeful relationships with young people, specialist Youth Justice Workers in GYDPs aim to reduce the likelihood of offending and to encourage young people to take up pro-social opportunities and transform their prospects for the better.


GYDP Action Research Project participants

Rathkeale GYDP                -              Rathkeale, Co. Limerick

RAY                                      -              Roscrea, Co. Tipperary

SMART                                -              Trim, Co. Meath

High Voltage & Team      -              Dundalk, Co. Louth                                                                                           

YAPSL                                    -              Sligo / Leitrim

Edge                                      -              Carrick on Suir, Co. Tipperary

Leaf & Falcarragh             -              Raphoe & Falcarragh, Co. Donegal          

Keep                                      -              Kilmore West, Dublin 5

North Fingal                       -              Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

Block                                     -              Portlaoise, Co. Laois

Jay                                          -              Jobstown, Dublin 24

Kerry KEY Service              -              Tralee, Co. Kerry

BYB                                        -              Ballymun, Dublin 11

Ucan                                      -              Lucan, Co. Dublin

Cabra For Youth                -              Cabra, Dublin 7


Making it Count study

This study compares data recording practices in the youth justice system in Ireland to six other jurisdictions generally considered to be top performers in terms of data collection. The jurisdictions examined were carefully selected; Scotland, Sweden, England and Wales, the Netherlands and U.S. states of Pennsylvania and Washington. The research involved analysis of published information provided by each jurisdiction about performance in their respective youth justice system as well as interviewing key individuals involved in policy and research who were able to provide expert opinion about the value of the data. The report finds that Ireland collects mainly cost-related and activity-related data and that this can be quite fragmented because of the number of agencies and bodies involved in the Irish Youth Justice system. Nevertheless Ireland compares reasonably well with the other jurisdictions examined which also major on collecting and presenting cost and activity data.


Our Public Service 2020

Reform of our public services has been a major theme for this Government. Our Public Service 2020 (published in 2017) sets out a detailed reform programme for the public sector, with 18 actions across 3 pillars. The work Minister Stanton is leading on reform in the Youth Justice area corresponds to 2 key themes that underpin the overall public service reform framework:


  1. ensuring an evidence and data-driven approach linking expenditure and reform by optimising the use of data; and
  2. delivering for our public, by improving services, making them more accessible, and – most importantly in the Youth Justice area – designing services and systems that are child-centred and provide a wrap-around, holistic response.