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Data-driven reforms to shake up youth justice

27 Mar 2019 / policing Print

Data-driven reforms to shake up youth justice

Two significant initiatives in the reform and development of youth justice have been announced by Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton.

Building on research by the University of Limerick, the changes will kick-start development of a new youth justice strategy as well as a reform and development programme for the network of 106 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) around the country.

Best practice

The GYDP Action Research Project will work with fifteen GYDPs, across ten counties, over a two-year to tease out best practice in working with young people at risk.

The findings of research which are due in June will be used as the basis for the design of new, more effective ways of working using the same resources.

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.”


The research reviews the types of relationships that are most effective in bringing about positive change and examines what productive relationships between young people and front-line workers should look like.

“Making it Count” is a second research project, jointly funded by the Irish Research Council and the Department of Justice and Equality.

It compares data recording practices in the youth justice in Ireland with six other jurisdictions to establish how useful these are in informing the tax-payer about whether the system is working.

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.

The findings 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 “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 of University of Limerick Law School, said “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 106 local GYDPs are allocated some €18 million government funding in 2019 and work with 4,000 young people at any one time. By building purposeful relationships specialist workers aim to reduce the likelihood of offending.

Participating in the research programme are teams in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, Trim, Co Meath, Dundalk, Co Louth, Sligo/Leitrim, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, Raphoe and Falcarragh, Co Donegal, Kilmore West, Dublin 5, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, Portlaoise, Co Laois, Jobstown, Dublin 24, Tralee, Co Kerry, Ballymun, Dublin 11, Lucan, Co Dublin and Cabra, Dublin 7.

The initiatives are in line with evidence-based and data-driven public services reform.

The goal in the youth justice area is to design services that are child-centred and provide a wrap-around, holistic response.

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