Emphasis must be on keeping young people out of Youth Justice System following Audit Office review

Include Youth have welcomed the publication of a review by the Northern Ireland Audit Office into the “Managing Children who Offend” report, the results of which were published today. 

Speaking following the publication, Include Youth’s Policy Co-ordinator, Dr Paula Rodgers said:

“Three years have passed since the initial Audit Office report “Managing Children who Offend’ was published.

“While Include Youth welcome that some progress has been made we unfortunately continue to see extremely vulnerable young people, especially those within the care system, being involved with the youth justice system. 

“Include Youth recognises  the high standard of care delivered by staff in Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre and the acknowledgement that there has been some progress in developing and delivering an effective reform programme.

“However the crux of the matter is that we need investment, at community level, to stop the youth justice system having to get involved in the first place in young people’s lives.

“A number of issues are striking.  The report states that the length of time taken to complete cases involving young people at court has actually increased. These delays are unacceptable. 

“Furthermore  the lack of progress on reducing reoffending rates points to the urgent need to provide young people with wraparound holistic tailored support to enable them to engage fully in education, training and employment, on release from the system.

“For Include Youth, an organisation that works with care experienced young people, this situation is compounded for those young people within the care system.

 “It is very clear that there is a disproportionate amount of young people with experience of the care system continuing to be involved with youth justice and to be detained.

 “It is unacceptable that children from care in particular are in a revolving door situation. The majority of children who enter Woodlands Juvenile Justice System are from a children’s home and the majority exiting from Woodlands are going back to a children’s home.

“None of these problems will be entirely resolved as the Audit Office report states there is still not an ‘end-state design for how the entire youth justice system will work’. Without dedicated outcomes how can we reach a satisfactory conclusion to this? The simple answer is we can’t.

“We urgently need to see a Cross-departmental approach from the Executive to drive the recommendations from this report forward and protect the most vulnerable young people in our society.”