Check Against Delivery

Minister Stanton's speech for the launch of Big Brother Big Sister and Garda Youth Diversion Projects: Perspectives on a Preventative Intervention report

03rd July 2018


Ladies and Gentlemen I am honoured to be here today to launch the report on Big Brothers Big Sisters and Garda Youth Diversion Projects: Perspectives on a Preventative Intervention. I’m glad you could take the time away from the glorious weather to be here.  


The Big Brother Big Sister programme is an internationally recognised system that is used in over 15 countries.  Foróige first launched the Big Brother Big Sister programme as a pilot in Ireland in 2001 and from what I believe was the first of its kind here.  Since then Foróige has brought the Big Brother Big Sister programme to 21 counties around the country supporting hundreds of at risk young people.  The service is very impressive and it is an approach that we want to make available – along with the other forms of mentoring that have been trialled within the GYDP network - throughout the Garda Youth Diversion Projects. I know that my Department has raised this in a preliminary way with Foróige and that we can be sure of your enthusiastic cooperation.

We have embarked on a major development of the GYDPs following the recent consultation process.  The journey will be a collaborative one and, without pre-empting the consensus that we will work with you all on over the next 12 months, I expect and want to support a greater emphasis on mentoring, preventative work in the community, special interventions for the most challenging young offenders, family support and integration at local level of the State’s response – pulling together schools, social services, Tusla, GYDPs to provide an effective wrap around service. 


We know that early intervention for vulnerable young people as being key to keeping them out of the Justice system. Providing early intervention to young people can help reduce crime rates and increase their integration into the wider communities.  Mentoring projects such as Big Brother Big Sister are of particular interest to me as they often can provide the sole stable relationship in a young person’s life.


My Department through the Irish Youth Justice Service is committed to funding Mentoring projects such as Big Brother Big Sister to become more and more an integral part of our Garda Youth Diversion Projects to help young people as risk of offending. The Irish Youth Justice Service has allocated in excess of €500,000 of Dormant Accounts funding in 2018 to the financing of Mentoring Services for Young people of which 220,000 has been directly allocated to Big Brother Big Sister to continue its impressive work.  This will bring the total spent on mentoring services since 2016 to €1.18m.  The Department is committed to bring a range of services to young people throughout all parts of the country as such has plans to expand the coverage of the Garda Youth Diversion programmes to ensure that all vulnerable young people have access to the supports that they need.


This report highlights the success that mentoring programmes have when used in conjunction with Garda Youth Diversion Programmes and the impact that this type of intervention can have on the young people themselves.  This report highlights the feedback from young people who have participated in the mentoring programme and I am delighted to see the highly positive nature of the feedback from young people which confirms the need for this type of intervention in our communities.  One particular comment from a young person stood out to me I gotten more confident in myself… She taught me that you don’t have to be good just to, do stuff, you just try your best” (or)I’m closer to her than I would be with most other people in school. I can tell her stuff that I wouldn’t be able to tell other people” this comment for me highlights the success of the programme and especially shows the positive influence that the volunteers that participate in these programmes have on young people and the potentially life changing impact that the volunteers can have.


Community based organisations such as the ones Foróige provide play a key part in providing support to young people and their families and they are often an integral part of the community which, combined with a sense of community ownership allows them to connect to the local community they are based in, in ways state agencies are unable to.  That connection going forward will play a key part in providing a wide range of wrap around services to support young people, their families and the community as a whole.  It is hoped in the future that these wrap around services will, in conjunction with multiple agencies be available to support all young people no matter what their need may be and that they will also be able to support the families of young people in our communities.


I would like to commend the Authors on the hard work that was done to produce this report.  I would also like to acknowledge all of the staff, volunteers and young people involved in the Big Brother Big Sister programme without whom the programme wouldn’t be the success that it is today.