A youth justice charity has called on the Government to commit resources to divert young offenders from crime and to support their families.
The call was made at the launch of a new strategy by Le Chéile. The voluntary community organisation is this year celebrating 10 years in operation.
Speaking at the launch, Irish rugby player Isaac Boss urged men to volunteer to work as mentors for young people engaged in crime and anti-social behaviour.
Le Chéile runs eight mentoring projects, in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, the midlands and Meath, and a restorative justice programme in Limerick.
It is funded by the Irish Youth Justice Service, the Probation Service and more recently by the European Social Fund.
“Last year, Le Chéile volunteer mentors worked with over 160 young people and 50 parents, with 2,041 mentoring sessions taking place,” said Le Chéile chief executive Anne Conroy.
“We aim to extend our services so all young people who need these services can access them, regardless of where they live.
“Working constructively with vulnerable young people who offend is effective in terms of both cost to the state and outcomes for young people, with a study last year of Le Chéile’s Restorative justice project showing a return of nearly €3 for every €1 invested.”
Launching a strategy for 2015-2017, Ms Conroy said they want to extend their mentoring programme to younger children and to other parts of the country.
The average age of young people they work with is 17, but they want to work with children as young as 12. In addition, Ms Conroy said they would like to extend their mentoring work into places of detention, like Oberstown in north Dublin.
However, to do all this work, they need extra funding, she said. She also called on men to get involved in volunteering, saying while most of the young offenders are male, only a quarter of volunteers are male.
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