In consultation with key stakeholders, the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) developed the National Youth Justice Strategy (PDF, 927 KB), which was launched on 27th March 2008. The National Youth Justice Strategy will provide the framework for a co-ordinated approach among agencies working in the Youth Justice System over the next three years (2008 to 2010). The Strategy outlines a series of specific goals, objectives, actions, outcomes and performance indicators for key agencies in the field. It is guided by the principles of the Children Act 2001, emphasising a child-centred approach to service delivery and outcomes, with the best interests of the child being paramount and detention only used as a last resort.
The priority of the Strategy is young people who have already been in trouble with the law and delivering the best outcomes for them and the community. The Strategy recognises the importance of early intervention in the lives of young offenders in relation to the wider issue of crime prevention. A key high-level goal of the strategy is "to work to reduce reduce offending by diverting young people from offending behaviour".
Accordingly, the National Youth Justice Strategy aims "to make existing intervention measures more effective in reducing offending behaviour". This will involve the IYJS working in partnership with An Garda Síochána to evaluate existing Garda Youth Diversion Projects and improve their effectiveness through the identification and adoption of best practice. Simultaneously, the number of these Projects will be increased and the scope of the Garda Juvenile Diversion Scheme extended.
The IYJS will engage in a similar partnerships with other relevant bodies, including the community and voluntary sectors, to make existing policies more effective and develop new policies and programmes to prevent children becoming involved in crime. Finally, the IYJS will assess the scope of existing diversion programmes in order to identify gaps in service provision and develop new initiatives to fill these gaps.
The Strategy provides for the setting-up of various implementation bodies in order to achieve these objectives. National monitoring and implementation of the strategy will be the responsibility of a National Youth Justice Oversight Group, which is to be established by the Minister for Children in order to facilitate high-level cross-agency collaboration. Local-level Youth Justice Teams are to be established, which will involve key agencies working together to enhance the delivery of localised outcomes.