The country’s main youth detention facility has welcomed a new report which recommends better policies regarding children and young people in care who come in contact with the justice system.
The Care and Justice Report, conducted by the Irish Penal Reform Trust by academics Dr Paula Mayock and Nicola Carr found that while approximately 30% of cases in the children's court involve children with care experience, there was still a shortage of systematic data collected by gardaí and Tusla to identify the extent of the issue.
“The association between care and justice is an area of concern, particularly at the ‘higher end’ of the youth justice system, that is, when children are prosecuted in the courts and are placed in detention,” it said. “This is identified as an issue for children with multiple and complex needs, many of whom are accommodated within residential care. Systemic factors including the profile of care provision, the prosecution of children in care placements and the responsiveness of the youth justice system to children in care are explored.”
The IPRT said a more coordinated approach was required, citing the absence of data gathered by Tusla about the interaction between the care and justice systems for done children, and the inadequacy of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme in responding to those needs.
Oberstown Director Pat Bergin said: “Given these facts, and as the IPRT report recommends, there is a need for a more joined up approach between all agencies involved with these young people, and not just when they enter the ‘higher end’ of the justice system, i.e. Oberstown.
“In order to adequately serve this vulnerable population of young people, we must identify and recognise the specific needs of care-experienced young people. From our point of view, this means working with a range of agencies to come up with an individualised placement plan for that young person’s needs and to ensure there are a range of services available to young people to meet their complex needs on release.”
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Acting Executive Director of Irish Penal Reform Trust Fíona Ní Chinnéide said that while the report was only speaking about a small number of children, there were areas where improvements were needed, including with the Garda Diversion Programme.
“So for example placements can break down, young people can be moved to a different area or maybe a place only becomes available that's very far from home, so there are challenges on the garda side with tracking and engaging with the young person and that limits the ability, or lets say it reduces the effectiveness of the gardaí and the ability of young people to access the Garda Diversion Programme,” she said.