Youth Justice Policy: Statements

I am delighted to have an opportunity to address the Seanad to discuss the important area of activity in my Department focused on youth justice policy. My Department is responsible for a range of supports to families and children which, although not specific to juvenile offenders, seek to address many of the social and economic contributory factors which may lead to offending behaviour. I am driving reforms to bring about a seamless new approach to policy development for early years right through to youth and young adulthood. I am also trying to integrate service provision for children in order that young people have the best possible outcomes. To design and develop effective policies and services that make a difference, we need to better understand children, their lives, their experiences, their expectations. Fortunately, the range of high quality research we have means that we are data-rich when it comes to children.

The Garda youth diversion projects and youth programmes are giving us good results. The level of youth crime has fallen consistently in the past three years. From 1 May 2012, 16 year old males were transferred from the adult prison system to the Oberstown campus, meaning that 16 year olds are no longer detained in adult prison facilities. I will be introducing legislation to ensure we have a unified approach on the campus at Oberstown. We have appointed a new campus manager, with whom I met yesterday to discuss the preparatory work being done there.

For the first time in the past year, we have a clinical service for young people in special care and detention, the assessment, consultation and therapy service, ACTS.

It is very important this is now in place and we have a professional responsive assessment service available for young people who get into trouble for offending behaviour and end up in detention and that this service can liaise with other professionals, advise the staff on the campus on the particular needs of the young people who arrive there and advise the courts as they develop the services on precisely what Oberstown can offer in terms of assessment. We do not want repeat assessments on these young people who very often have had a huge amount of contact with professionals before they ever arrive in detention. The development of this new professional assessment service and treatment service for these young people at national level is to be greatly welcomed. It means that it will be possible to follow up on the young people who have been in Oberstown.

We have extended the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to 17 year old boys detained in the adult prison system for the period until such detentions cease fully. This was done in agreement with the Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter. It is the first time this responsibility will fall under the remit of the Ombudsman for Children.

As Senators are aware, we have secured capital funding to undertake the national project in Oberstown. This will deliver sufficient new detention facilities to extend the child care model to all under 18 year olds ordered to be detained by the courts. Construction started in September 2013 and all necessary project and risk management structures have been worked out. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, for the great co-operation of the OPW. This is the biggest capital project in which the Government is involved. It will mean that by the third quarter of this year the new facilities required in Oberstown for the transfer of responsibility for the detention of 17 year old males detained in adult prison facilities will be available. This is major progress and something people have spoken about since the 1980s. We will now be able to respond appropriately to young people under the age of 18 years.

Any level of criminal behaviour by young people is a serious social issue for the victims of their crimes, the communities in which they live, the young people and their families. We must not forget the victims of youth offending are very often other young people. A system to deal with this has immediate and longer-term goals. As Senators are very well aware the detention system, the courts system and preventative services need to balance justice, rehabilitation, fairness and accountability. These must be the goals.

Every year a specific cohort of young people in Ireland require targeted strategic attention because of their offending behaviour. It is very interesting to examine the annual reports and the breakdown of offending behaviour. These young people are the focus of the programme for Government, which includes commitments which will impact on youth crime and anti-social behaviour. It is very important that we build up partnerships between local communities and the Garda. We must place emphasis on alternative programmes for young offenders through extensions to the juvenile liaison officer scheme and the diversion programme. We must examine how community organisations work with young people to reduce offending behaviour. We must also end the practice of sending 16 and 17 year old boys to St. Patrick's Institution.

I work very closely with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish Youth Justice Service based in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs operates across the two Departments with officials from both working together. The Irish Youth Justice Service is responsible for leading and driving reform in youth justice by focusing on diversion and rehabilitation and examining how we can use community intervention. Senators are very familiar with the work done at local level where gardaí work intensively with youth organisations and local community services. It is very successful. It is a safe and secure environment and helps young people change their ways. For some young people we must provide a safe and secure environment but we work towards rehabilitation into the community at the earliest possible stage.

The Department works in an integrated way to develop strong links between early intervention, prevention and developing closer working relationships between the care system and the justice system.

Often it is arbitrary whether a child ends up in the care system or the justice system. We need to see more integration between the two. It is in the interests of children if we can do this more effectively, because we have to keep children and young people out of the criminal justice system as much as possible.

The youth justice system should be considered in its entirety from the Garda diversion programme through to the Children Court and children detention schools, with detention as a last resort. I want to be clear that detention is a last resort and it is important that this is understood by everyone. The principles of the Children Act 2001 require the various authorities to apply, incrementally, a series of "filters" or tests to each case in which a child comes into conflict with the law. It is about using those filters before using detention. Nevertheless, for a small number of children, detention, unfortunately, is appropriate and has to be used.

The first main filter is the Garda diversion programme. The second main filter is provided by the non-custodial sanctions available to the courts, including dismissal under the Probation Act, unsupervised sanctions, fines, peace bonds and curfews. The next stage involves probation and supervised sanctions and, as a last resort, detention may be used.

My Department continues to provide in the region of €53 million to youth organisations, which have a role to play. That means that we can target supports to those young people who are most likely to come to the attention of the Garda in certain circumstances and in the youth services. They can reach out to these young people. Obviously, the youth services reach out to a much broader range of young people in the population as a whole. Many organisations are working with young people who have been marginalised and who, perhaps, have come to the attention of the Garda but have never been involved in youth organisations. There is great potential for the youth organisations to reach out to those young people. They focus mainly on the ten to 21 year olds and provide youth work to about 400,000 young people. Some 40,000 volunteers work with youth services around the country.

The Garda youth diversion projects, GYDPs, are nationwide, community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives, funded by the Department of Justice and Equality through the community programmes unit co-located in my Department. The 100 projects seek to divert young people from becoming involved in anti-social or criminal behaviour and I am very impressed by the positive outcomes of these Garda youth diversion projects. They work in tandem with the Garda diversion programme which has been in operation since 1963 and was put on a statutory basis in Part 4 of the Children Act 2001. The most recent Garda youth diversion programme report, from 2012, shows that 12,246 young people were referred to the diversion programme. There were approximately 24,000 offences but only 1,822 of that group of young people were considered unsuitable for the programme and their files were returned to the local district officer for a decision on initiating a prosecution before the courts. Clearly, the diversion programme is key to keeping young people out of the criminal justice system. If there is repeat offending, undoubtedly these young people will come back before the courts and will have to follow a different pathway. In 2012 more than 5,000 young people were engaged with the Garda diversion projects, with more than 55% of those having received a caution for committing a crime. In addition, approximately 45% of these young people were targeted for interventions to challenge their behaviour because they were deemed to be in the "at risk of committing a crime" category.

I refer Senators to the White Paper on Crime which recognises the significance of early intervention in breaking the cycle of disadvantage. The focus in my Department, with the launch of the new Child and Family Agency this week after its establishment on 1 January, and the legislation that has just gone through the Seanad is part and parcel of working more effectively with the most vulnerable young children in the country.

Clearly, services such as the early childhood care and education scheme are important. Research, particularly from the United States, shows that early intervention can lower the level of anti-social behaviour at a later stage. One can definitely bring about a reduction if there is high-quality early intervention for young children.

I hope that gives some idea of the work being done. We are making progress on a youth justice action plan for the period 2014-18 and it will be published very shortly. It will outline how we need to proceed when working with the group of young people in question.

There is a small group of young people who are very difficult to help. They present with very complex problems that are very often intergenerational. Problems can be aggravated by alcohol and drugs. We require an increasing number of specialist services to deal with these young people.

On the youth justice action plan, we can say at this point that we know more about the nature of the youth crime problem, and we are more data driven. I am very impressed by the research being done by the Garda diversion projects and the Garda and I am also impressed by their approach to gathering the data. There is a fall in the rate of detected youth crime. These positive changes have occurred at the same time as Ireland's relatively low level of youth detention, which has also experienced further downward trends. There is more effective use of money and we are achieving better outcomes.

The detention schools are at the very serious end of the spectrum where behaviour is concerned. I have outlined the changes proposed for detention. We will have a state-of-the-art campus with a state-of-the-art response and there will be intervention for young people. The outcomes for young people in detention internationally are not good. However, we must ensure that we have the very best model working in the new campus and new units. I acknowledge the change this has meant for the staff in Oberstown. It is important that we change in response to the opportunities that the new campus will present to allow for state-of-the-art intervention for young people. We have had some very difficult discussions, including on changing rosters and on the three units becoming one campus as opposed to three different services. I thank all involved for the progress we are making on the campus regarding these issues.

I hope that gives an idea of the range of services that fall within my Department's remit. We are continuing to work with the board of management and the management of the three detention schools with a view to securing a number of improvements in their operation. We want a more integrated and standardised approach to their work. We want one single, cohesive national detention facility on the Oberstown campus, achieved through the integration of the three detention schools. We also want to see shared services in the detention schools.

There is now a single cross-campus roster for care staff. A central staff allocation office has been established under the Croke Park agreement. This means more flexible deployment of staff, which is important. Work has been done by Ms Janet Hughes, a former rights commissioner who is working with the staff to review the ongoing implementation of the campus roster arrangement and other changes that may be necessary. We recently recruited a new campus manager, Mr. Pat Bergin. I am going into detail on this issue because I know Senators were interested in some of these issues and have been raising them with me at committee meetings. These are the kinds of initiative that have been developed.

There was a HIQA inspection in Oberstown recently, on which the feedback was very positive with regard to the operation of the detention schools. Obviously, HIQA reports on services vary, but this one has shown consistent improvements. The last report was positive. I hope I have been helpful in giving an idea of the developments in the area of youth justice in my Department.

I welcome the Minister and acknowledge that although Senator Averil Power was due to take this slot, she is unavoidably absent and I am filling in for her. I thank the Minister for the progress made in her portfolio and the efforts she is making with restricted funds and so on. It is very easy to be critical, but the entire matter of youth justice is evolving. There are no easy-fix answers and we probably will never have the utopian situation in which a youth justice system is not needed. My party feels very strongly on this subject. In 2001 it brought in the Children Act and at the time it considered the models in New Zealand and New South Wales and tried to copy what they had achieved, as they had made significant progress. Later on, Fianna Fáil appointed Barry Andrews as the first Minister of State with responsibility for children and youth affairs, followed by Deputy Brendan Smith. It is welcome that the Minister has been elevated to a full Cabinet position as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, which is appropriate and is a further step in the right direction. As Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brendan Smith introduced a national youth justice strategy 2008-10, on which I believe the Minister has built and to which she probably has made some changes.

Unfortunately, the rate of progress has sometimes been criticised, and, as a practising solicitor, albeit not practising as much lately as heretofore, I note the importance of the Garda youth diversion projects, the YJForum and so on. Their purpose is to prevent crime, to find out what is happening at an early stage and to try to address it. The difficulty is that much of this activity starts when a person is between the ages of ten and 12 years and by the time teenagers reach 16 or 17 years and are in and out of detention centres and then jail, it becomes somewhat repetitive. My view, with which I believe most people agree, is that early intervention is highly desirable. I also seek counselling, education and proper treatment when people are inside. It should not be a case of just locking people up, particularly young people, in the hope they will be fully reformed on their release after six or 12 months. I also acknowledge the tremendous work being done under the auspices of the Garda Síochána youth and children strategy. Again, I note Members are considering a scenario in which the focus on youth justice 20 years ago was minimal. I have already noted that my party initiated some welcome changes, and the Minister is carrying the baton and hopefully will take it to another level. I have personal experience on the ground as to how the gardaí who are dedicated to youth justice and to dealing with young people operate. Detention is a last resort, as they try to deal with such young people outside the courts by issuing warnings to them and trying to get them in line. This works quite well and progress has been made.

I welcome the Minister's decision on the Oberstown development and hope this matter can proceed quickly. I acknowledge the financial circumstances are constrained but it is very important to have the new facility in Oberstown up and running and fully operational. It is a source of particular concern and worry to me when one hears experienced judges criticising politicians, the Minister, the Oireachtas and the Government because of a lack of places. I refer, in particular, to the strong statement made not too long ago by Judge Ann Ryan with regard to juvenile courts to the effect that judges' hands are tied and that children are being kept in hospitals and places that are not appropriate for juvenile justice. While these criticisms are hard-hitting as far as the Minister is concerned, Members must deal with the situation as they find it and try to improve and develop a strategy.

As for the youth justice strategy, I refer to what has happened in 2012. The Irish Youth Justice Service has been based in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and operates across two Departments, namely, the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs and Justice and Equality. It is staffed by officials from both Departments.

The Minister's remit overlaps with that of the Department of Justice and Equality but she should have a prior role in determining where youth justice ends. The Minister for Justice and Equality answers ultimately in that regard, but the Minister, as Minister with responsibility for children, should take a leading role in ensuring children from a young age to adulthood are dealt with. Her function as Minister with responsibility for children should have priority in one sense over that of the Minister for Justice and Equality, whose function is very broad. I have been in the Department of Justice and Equality on St. Stephen's Green on a number of occasions; it is huge and cumbersome. The Minister should take a hands-on approach - I am not saying she is not - to dealing with the issues of young people and crime.

The main legislation covering youth justice is the Children Act 2001. It is important for the Minister to ensure the children detention centre at Oberstown, Lusk, will be fully operational and that it is not just a place for detaining people because education has a critical role.

The then Minister, Deputy Brendan Smith, set out my party's strategy for 2008 to 2010, which included five high-level goals. When responding the Minister might indicate whether she is embracing the strategy or improving on it. If she is I would welcome that in terms of determining where we can go from here. The five high-level goals in the strategy outlined by the then Minister, Deputy Brendan Smith, are to provide leadership and build public confidence in the youth justice system; to work to reduce offending by diverting young people from offending behaviour; to promote the greater use of community sanctions, which is essential, and initiatives to deal with young people who offend; to provide a safe and secure environment for detained children which will assist their early reintegration into the community. In that regard, I am concerned about Judge Ryan's intervention; and to strengthen and develop information and data sources in the youth justice system to support more effective policies and services.

As I said, this is an evolving process. I wish the Minister well. It is a very difficult brief. From the outside looking in we might sometimes think the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has an easy touch, so to speak. I know that is not the case and that she has very difficult issues to deal with. I hope that by the end of her tenure in two years time she will be able to say she moved on the 2011 levels and achieved X, Y and Z. Regardless of who the Minister is in ten years time, I hope we will have made much more progress than we have made to date. There is no utopian fix to youth justice. Unfortunately, in the society we live in, we will probably never eliminate youth crime. We can only strive to contain it and make improvements.

I am delighted to welcome the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, back to the Upper House in my capacity as Fine Gael spokesperson on children and youth affairs. The Minister has been very generous with the time she has given engaging with the Seanad.

The matter of youth justice is one of a number of very significant areas the Minister has been dealing with since her appointment as the State's first senior Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. As an area that straddles two Departments - Justice and Equality and Children and Youth Affairs - it is a particularly challenging one requiring close co-operation between the two Departments. I am conscious that while the Minister for Justice and Equality is responsible for youth crime policy and law including crime prevention, reduction and detection, as well as criminal proceedings and diversion and community sanctions, the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, is responsible for the three children detention schools housing girls up to the age of 18 years and boys up to the age of 17, and that brings the provisions of the Children Act 2001 into focus.

It is true that most policy initiatives under the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have a cross-portfolio element to them and require a great deal of skill to move forward. The Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, having worked as a social worker in inner city London and Dublin for 20 years, is uniquely qualified to advance progressive approaches to youth justice.

The circumstances of children in custody is a matter that has received a great deal of attention in recent times, rightly so.

It makes no sense to look back on the mistreatment of children and young people in the past and believe that in this day and age all the problems have been addressed. I believe the most meaningful way the State can atone for the sins of the past is to ensure that in modern Ireland we have a humane and progressive approach to child detention facilities at the very least. Primarily, child detention should be avoided wherever possible in favour of non-custodial sanctions, particularly restorative justice initiatives. I understand important progress is being made in this regard through the youth diversion programme operated by juvenile liaison officers.

The Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, has made significant progress in addressing the problems in child detention facilities. She inherited huge problems on taking office, not least the fragmentation within the child detention area. I note her stated intention to introduce a children (amendment) Bill which would provide for the amendment of the Children Act 2001 to allow for the amalgamation of the three children detention schools to maximise shared services and create what the Minister describes as a single-campus ethos. To my mind, such a move is in the best interests of both staff and detainees as it is likely to deliver a more consistent, streamlined, best-practice approach.

The Minister has also introduced other important measures, including the provision of enhanced specialist therapeutic services to children in detention schools, including greater access to multidisciplinary teams of psychologists, substance misuse specialists and speech and language therapists. This is a recognition of the various serious problems that can lead children into difficulty and I sincerely welcome this new development.

Moreover, the Minister has ended the historic practice of committing 16 year old boys to St. Patrick's Institution and committed to a huge capital spend of more than €56 million to the Oberstown campus in Lusk to give effect to the Government decision to end the detention of children in adult prison facilities.

The Children Act mandates that detention be seen as a last resort for children who get into difficulties with the law. To most of us, the very phrase "child detention" seems wrong. It is our responsibility as a society and as a Parliament to ensure that we do everything possible to steer children away from criminality. This means that zoning in on the types of economic and educational disadvantage that can lead young people into criminality. It also means having robust youth diversion programmes in place. This is a challenge at a time of limited budgets; however, we ultimately pay a much higher price, financially and socially, by failing to have a strong programme of intervention and prevention.

Hand in hand with economic deprivation is the scourge of drugs, which destroys many young lives. The television series "Love/Hate" brings into sharp relief the misery, violence and oppression associated with drug dealing in areas of urban deprivation. The Minister is in a key position to reach out to children in danger of falling prey to ruthless drugs gangs and a focus on this area is of huge importance.

I note the Minister's commitment to better facilities in children detention schools. I would welcome an update on how she and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, are working together on policy matters. As alluded to by the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, in various contexts, the lack of clear communication between related Departments, units and even personnel is a huge cultural difficulty in some parts of the public sector which we need to address. A close working relationship between the Departments of Justice and Equality and Children and Youth Affairs is absolutely essential if youth justice is to be given the priority it deserves.

While this is not the topic that we are dealing with today, I would like to raise the matter of direct provision for asylum seekers and the need for the State to ensure the welfare of children in direct provision facilities is adequately protected. It is not a question of providing unnecessarily elaborate accommodation; it is a question of basic welfare. Again, this is an area that is within the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality, but I hope the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs would have a strong voice in this matter. We must be aware at all times of the threats to child welfare in this day and age. Child abuse and neglect is, unfortunately, not an aspect of our history but an ongoing evil which requires constant vigilance and proactive measures to counter. Having a dedicated Minister with responsibility for children shows a clear statement of intent by the Government, but the Minister needs the co-operation and support of the Cabinet and Parliament to achieve her worthy objectives. As the Fine Gael spokesperson on children and youth affairs in the Seanad, I am certainly anxious to play my part in assisting the Minister in advancing her legislative agenda in any way I can. I wish her continued success.

I have a good deal to say, but I will try to contain myself.

I welcome the Minister who has laid down a comprehensive statement on youth policy, which she had hoped to do in December. It is great that this is all together and that the Minister used the House to do this. She has mentioned that we are improving our data, but I remain concerned at the lack of data in the area, a point to which I will return. This particularly applies to juvenile offenders and children coming into contact with the criminal justice system. Through an analysis of various reports compiled by the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development and a number of significant academic studies by the likes of Sinead McPhillips, Dr. Ursula Kilkelly and Dr. Jennifer Hayes, three key risk factors associated with children who became involved in criminal behaviour have been identified. As the Minister knows, these are family background, educational disadvantage characterised by poor literacy skills and low levels of academic achievement, and personal and familial factors such as alcohol and drug misuse, intergenerational crime and mental health problems. The studies have categorised the factors for us but it is not the understanding of the majority of the public who are confronted daily with media reports and headlines about violent youth offenders and delinquent youths who are out of control. In the absence of political and media discourse to the contrary, it is understandable that they want to see zero tolerance and tough-on-crime type approaches. That is why the Minister's intervention is important. I support her understanding and her moves to promote prevention and early intervention.

I commend the work of so many of the agencies involved in the delivery of juvenile justice policy in Ireland such as An Garda Síochána, particularly its Garda youth diversion projects, the dedicated young persons' probation division of the Probation Service, the Courts Service, and the Irish Prison Service, as long as it still has 17 year old children detained in St. Patrick’s Institution. I would like to make special mention of the Irish Youth Justice Service, IYJS, which has been leading and driving reform in the area of youth justice since its creation in 2005. It has made important strides and shows the importance of Departments working together, as the Minister outlined.

It is a real missed opportunity that a centralised data and research department has not been established in the IYJS. We need to co-ordinate inter-agency research between the agencies involved in the delivery of juvenile justice and map the trajectory of the child through the criminal justice system. Every child has an individual story but we mostly get to read these in child death reports and other significant reports. We need to collect the data earlier. We also need to identify divergences between the policy and legal framework of youth justice and its implementation, administration and practice.

I personally congratulate the Minister on a number of successes and advances in youth justice policy under her stewardship. In particular, I welcome the decision on St. Patrick’s Institution and today's update on bringing the detention centres together. It has been long promised, but the Minister has done it and I thank her for it. We need a unified approach and I am happy to hear that a new head of the campus has been appointed. I look forward to the opportunity to support the legislation brought to the House. There are significant challenges in respect of the campus but I will support the Minister. In the interim, since December 2013, 17 year olds are being remanded to Wheatfield Prison. I note specific concerns raised by the Irish Penal Reform Trust in respect of 18 to 21 year olds, and obviously any 17 year olds detained there, that Wheatfield is often overcrowded and does not have adequate education and training capacity for its inmates. The focus for young adult prison population must be on rehabilitation and not simply containment. I remain concerned about the interim period and how we are serving these young people.

I raise my concern over the lack of sufficient special care and protection places available to children with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. I raised the point in November when we debated the Child and Family Agency Bill. From a juvenile justice policy perspective, my concern echoes that articulated by Judge Ann Ryan who until recently presided over the Children Court in Smithfield. She has spoken of her frustration at the lack of HSE special care and protection places available to children, citing a correlation between the failure of the State to appropriately deal with these acutely vulnerable children and the likelihood that many will find themselves before the Children Court facing criminal charges.

I remain concerned about this. For example, a HIQA report was published and the response was to close the centre, yet there are not enough places for the children who are vulnerable.

I refer to children who are remanded in custody. The most recent data available from the IYJS are from 2008 and show that of the 111 children detained on remand in children detention schools, only 44% went on to be sentenced to detention on conviction. That raises a twofold concern - first, that detention as a last resort requirement, the principle underlying the Children Act, was not being adequately embraced by judges at the pretrial stage and, second, that there was an urgent need to introduce a formal system of bail support to help children to manage their bail conditions, thus helping to reduce the number being placed in detention on remand. Unfortunately, the pilot scheme mooted in 2008 in, Young People on Remand: The National Children's Research Strategy Series, to offer bail support services for vulnerable children who ceme before the Children Court in Dublin and Limerick failed to materialise owing to insufficient resources. Will the Minister provide the House with the figures in this regard for the past few years? I would be interested in seeing and trying to understand them. I fear the position has not improved much from what I hear anecdotally. Will the Minister consider revisiting the bail support pilot scheme?

I refer to the issue of training. Staff and personnel engaged in the formulation and delivery of youth justice policy should be trained in the provisions of the Children Act. The Committee on the Rights of the Child made a recommendation to this effect in 2006. An advanced diploma in juvenile justice is being run by the King’s Inns. The course is attended by a great mix of professionals from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including legal professionals, juvenile liaison officers, prison officers, detention centre staff and the IYJS. Robust, specialist training such as this needs to be rolled out on a systematic basis and attendance supported by employers such as the State.

I also raise the issue of the age of criminal responsibility. The concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the age of criminal responsibility being ten years under the Criminal Justice Act 2006. The Minister has submitted a consolidated report to the committee. Has she had a communication from the committee? Will Ireland consider this issue before it appears before the committee?

On Second Stage of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in March last year I alerted the Minister for Justice and Equality to my concern about routine breaches of the Children Act in the Dublin Children Court. Examples include the court appointed registrar calling the name of the child in the public waiting room, the former practice of District Courts including YP, meaning "young person", beside the child's name on the court list and the presence of gardaí and legal representatives unrelated to the specific case in the court which is mandated to sit in camera. The Minister said he would write to the Courts Service and I await a response. I raise the issue in this debate because we need to consider practical remedies to ensure the Children Act is implemented in the spirit intended by the then Minister and the Houses of the Oireachtas.

I welcome the Minister. This debate was postponed on a number of occasions and it is good to see it finally take place. I have copies of a number of speeches the Minister has made on various matters relating to children and youth affairs. Will she give feedback to her administrators? The font is so small that one needs a magnifying glass to read them. If she could, for future reference, increase the font size, it would be helpful.

I welcome the opportunity to debate these issues. The Minister mentioned the relationship between the justice system and the care system.

I have mentioned to the Minister on a number of occasions that I am very concerned about the number of young people who have experienced both the care system and the prison system. There is a relationship between the number of children who experience the care system, end up in the prison system and experience homelessness. I know that in the past we have discussed the potential need for legislative change to underpin aftercare services in child care legislation and ask the Minister to make this a priority. It is an issue, particularly when there is an increasing number presenting as homeless; therefore, it should be taken into account.

A second issue relates to St. Patrick's Institution. We all welcome the announcement that no child under 18 years will be detained there, as well as the closure of the institution, following a report from the Inspector of Prisons. To be fair, there were numerous reports on it during the years. Ms Emily Logan, a former ombudsman, expressed very severe concerns about its operation. Although it is welcome that we are moving forward on this issue, no more than we require a banking inquiry to examine what went wrong in this country with the collapse of the banking system and the damage done to the economy as a result, we cannot close St. Patrick's Institution without having a full inquiry into what went on inside it. I am very worried that in the past it dealt with people who went through the criminal process and were rendered and treated as less than human beings. No closure of the institution will be complete in the eyes of those who experienced it without a full inquiry into what happened in it. There is enough evidence to indicate there was gross disrespect for their human dignity and human rights.

The Minister has mentioned that there have been extensive improvements from the amount of data available. It is very much welcome that we have improved data which show the experiences of young people. The report of the Oireachtas Library and Research Service published today indicates that the published youth detention data in Ireland are lacking and that as such it was very difficult for it to produce a report on the basis of the data available. It is worrying that we do not have good quality data available. Having said that, the headline figures for the detention of young people indicate that we are moving in the right direction, about which there is no doubt. The number of defendants subject to detention orders made by the Children Court in 2012 was 187 and in 2011, 263. We are aware that boys are more often committed to prison than girls. The number of boys aged between 16 and 17 years committed to prison in 2011 was 231 and in 2012, 144. The data are included in the statistical annex to Ireland's consolidated third and fourth reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the annual report of the Irish Prison Service for 2012. We are moving in the right direction, but the headline figure of 144 boys being committed to prison in 2012 is shocking. I note the Minister's statement in this regard and we all respect the thrust of policy - avoiding detention at all costs.

In the past I have argued for broader consideration of the causes of crime. We are all familiar with the issues which give rise to crime which cannot be seen in a vacuum. Young people who offend often come from the worst economic black spots in Dublin city, for example, as mentioned by the previous Governor of Mountjoy Prison.

It is no accident that the people presenting in the judicial system and who are remanded in prison are there because to a large extent they suffer from economic deprivation and poverty. There is no getting away from this. In that respect, again perhaps I will take the opportunity when the Minister is before us to compliment the work of Youth Work Ireland and Foróige in particular in terms of the community-based projects that are being delivered in the poorest communities in the country. If there is any room for manoeuvre as Ireland moves into a positive economic trajectory, I urge her to put more money into the kind of programmes that are delivered to young people on the ground in this country. They are not glamorous. A lot of them are not particularly expensive but they are critical in terms of empowering young people and giving them a real sense of what they can give to their local communities and society.

It is important also to remind ourselves from an academic point of view that avoiding detention is not just some sort of luxury that is either available to us or it is not. The academic thinking on all of this is very straightforward. Young people who are detained are singled out from the rest of society. Their criminal status is accentuated. There is accompanying social rebuke, which has unanticipated consequences in terms of undermining other conforming influences in their lives and pushing them into criminal careers. A significant amount of research exists. Studies have been done by McAra and McVie, for example, which confirm that more and more intensive forms of contact with the criminal justice system inevitably damage young people and damage their chances of leaving the criminal system. It is important too to bear in mind that there is a vast amount of research that proves that we cannot treat this as a luxury. Detention within the criminal system for a young person does lead them, practically inevitably, to a life of crime.

I make a plea for funding for groups such as Foróige. The work they do on the ground and what they achieve in terms of their engagement with young people is something on which we cannot put a price. There are statistics on the cost-benefit of engaging with young people from €7 to €1 depending on the age of the child. Sometimes it is easy to draw conclusions based on the money spent on young children as opposed to older children, but we are not taking into account the cost to society of criminality, the ultimate cost of detention and some of the other issues down the track in terms of mental health, ongoing homelessness and prison costs.

The Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, is very welcome. It is always a joy to listen to her. I always find myself educated. The work being discussed today has educated me once again. I congratulate her on what has been achieved. I know she is not there yet and that she has a long way to go, but some of the figures provided today, such as that youth crime has fallen each year for the past three years, are welcome. The Minister also indicated that ever since the new Oberstown centre opened 16 year olds are no longer in adult prisons. Steps have been taken and many things can happen.

I accept that there are steps we as citizens can take also. Listening to Senator Aideen Hayden I was reminded of one case in point. When we opened a supermarket in a rather rough area the manager was having great difficulty with what he described as the ruffians around the back who were up to no good. He took them aside and explained to them that they were a problem and that he would have to put controls in place. He invited them in to show them what we did. He made friends with them and suddenly they were trusted and it was clear that it was the first time those young people had been trusted. He had practically no trouble with them after that. There are different ways of operating.

I wish to raise a few short points from various parts of the world about the topic under discussion. Last year the Council of Europe published a very interesting report which found that a high prison population was a result of policy, not crime. Prison population and overcrowding in European countries are linked with sentence length, not the number of people incarcerated.

It is well known among experts that if we have politicians who raise the issue of crime as being a massive problem in society, judges feel obliged to give longer sentences, resulting in more people in prison.

I looked up the Fine Gael website and it repeatedly states the party "stands for law and order and believes in tough sentences for criminals". That is understandable, but prison populations are inexorably linked to politics and policies of political parties. They are not simply due to more crime being committed. Arne Nilsen, the governor of Norway's Bastoy prison which is situated not too far outside Oslo, says the big difference with the prison system in Norway is that there is no unnecessary political interference in the system and its processes. There is no pressure from a cynical media either. The rate of reoffending in Bastoy is the lowest in Europe, at 16%. Mr. Nilsen said: "The Norwegian people do not like a crime or criminals, but we have a duty to society and to potential victims to release people from prison less likely to commit more crime." It is interesting to hear the aim is to release people from prison who are less likely to commit more crime. He went on to say: "By paying attention and respecting the humanity of the men who come here, that is what we do."

Could we learn more from other European countries in order to reduce the prison population, especially in terms of youth? In Germany and the Netherlands, young people aged 18 to 21 years can be treated either as juveniles or adults, depending on the seriousness of the crime, the circumstances in which it was committed and the personality of the defendant. In Scandinavian countries, sentence lengths are systematically reduced for young adults. We are all well aware of the issues that surrounded St. Patrick's Institution and the large number of young adults under 21 years who were held there under a 23 hour lock-up system. This should be an impetus to follow the lead of other European countries to change the way we deal with young offenders. It is clear the Minister is doing that, but it should be part of the plan to reduce prison numbers.

It is worth noting that in Germany education and vocational training are central, even for juveniles in custody. We can learn from these examples when it comes to setting policy in this area. I understand the situation is similar in the Netherlands and that imprisonment is a last resort. It is interesting to hear there is a plan to change the law in the United Kingdom in order that, for the first time, all prisoners will receive at least 12 months tailored, "through-the-gate" supervision upon release. Surely, instead of building more prisons, we should look at such examples, especially when it comes to reintegrating youth successfully into society.

We need to implement more community service, rather than prison sentences. The well respected policy think tank, the Howard League for Penal Reform, conducted research demonstrating that community service sentences can reduce re-offending by up to 22%, compared with short custodial sentences of up to 12 months. Community service provides a facility for things to get done that probably would not have been done and provides offenders with a routine of work. This can build their self-esteem and, perhaps, change their lives for the better, rather than locking them up at enormous cost to the taxpayer. In the United Kingdom community service is now officially referred to as compulsory unpaid work. Why do we not call a spade a spade? I would be interested in hearing the Minister's view on this.

One of the topics related to both juvenile and adult justice is the term "restorative justice", where the offender pays back for his or her crime. This is happening in the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. In the United Kingdom citizens can nominate a local project or vote for the project they wish to see benefit from unpaid labour. That is interesting and worth considering. The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice was quoted as saying of community payback that "punishment should be tough and we want to see low level offenders out making improvements to local communities as payback for the damage they have done." It is worth considering community payback as an option.

The Minister is doing a great deal and significant work has been done, but there is clearly more to be done.

Much more has to be done, but we are moving in the right direction. I am pleased that the Minister informed the House about what she is doing in this area and hope she will even learn from Senators’ contributions today. I congratulate her on what she has done so far and encourage her to continue with the same effort and enthusiasm she has shown.

I welcome the Minister. It is important to acknowledge that this is the first Government to have a senior Minister with responsibility for children. Until recently, the approach to children’s issues was similar to that to children, namely, being seen but not heard. The outcome to the children’s rights referendum means that children are now recognised in the Constitution. The referendum debate was an important exercise in raising public awareness of children’s issues. The Seanad is the appropriate Chamber in which to have this discussion. We are charged with teasing out policies and the future we would like to see for our children. Small incremental but important and significant steps have been taken in reforming the youth justice system such as the changes at St. Patrick’s detention centre.

I note that the Minister released a statement earlier on the incident that occurred at a night club last night, calling on all stakeholders to engage in a process to reach a measured response.

Tackling and preventing juvenile crime is extremely important. The Seanad has unanimously passed motions on restorative justice. I welcome restorative justice actions being taken on a voluntary basis, particularly in schools. I organised a briefing for Oireachtas Members, in the days when we could use the audio-visual room to bring in delegations, by children from St. Mark’s school in Tallaght who have successfully adopted a restorative justice approach to dealing with conflict in the school. Those Members who did attend were struck by the presentations by the students on how they dealt with issues through a restorative justice approach with teachers and students, particularly in dealing with bullying. The school in Tallaght has become a much better place as a result of this approach which could be used to deal with cyberbullying.

The Minister has outlined her priorities for the juvenile justice system, what has been achieved and what she wants to see happen in the future. We must realise Rome was not built in one day and that it will probably take two terms to put a juvenile justice system in place, one of which we can all be proud and which will ensure children are protected.

The establishment of the Child and Family Agency is a most impressive development. Pulling all of the agencies together under one umbrella with a budget of €500 million or €600 million will not only lead to efficiencies but will also facilitate interdepartmental co-ordination. A child who becomes vulnerable and has issues will not fall between Departments and we will have a unified approach. All of the Departments, including the Department of Education and Skills, and the Department of Justice and Equality, will buy into the one principle and case conferencing will be properly co-ordinated.

I acknowledge the pioneering approach taken by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, in this issue. He and the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, work together for the benefit of all citizens, particularly children.

I very much welcome the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. It is the first time I have been in her company since she officially visited Cavan and presided at the presentation of FETAC certificates in Cavan Youthreach for the second year in a row. On behalf of all of the staff and trainees there, we are looking forward to having her back for a third time. She also officiated at the opening of the youth cafe in Cootehill. I express how grateful both organisations are to the Minister for taking time out of her busy schedule. I know she had to return to Dublin for a function that evening, but it was very much appreciated.

I acknowledge that the Minister is, as Senator Martin Conway stated, the first Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in the history of the State, but my colleague from Cavan, Deputy Brendan Smith, was responsible for putting together a very important strategy during his short period of time as a Minister of State with responsibility for children.

I wish to mention a number of areas with which I am familiar, including the Garda juvenile liaison officer scheme which has been very successful for more than three decades. It provides a second opportunity for young people who find themselves in difficulties without having to be fined or spend time in prison. The other area with which I am familiar is the Garda juvenile diversion programme which is a more recent development. It is very successful and deals with young people between the ages of ten and 21 years. I also mention the local drugs task forces throughout the country which provide much-needed funding for communities badly affected by the scourge of drugs. All of these schemes and programmes do excellent work and are mainly funded by the Department.

The €53 million the Department has been voted this year will be used to do excellent work throughout the country. I know the Minister is very busy and has a huge range of responsibility, but she might consider examining the possibility of taking in charge some aspect of the Youthreach programme, with which I am very familiar. In particular I suggest the Minister takes responsibility for young people under the age of 18 years. She would have a huge contribution to make. The Department could provide much-needed funding, particularly for supports in the area of psychology and counselling, as such supports are sadly lacking. Perhaps the Department and the Department of Education and Skills could work together to examine this. Unfortunately, it is an area of the Youthreach programme budget which is not sufficient. It is so small it is dangerous to even undertake dealing with some of the psychological difficulties some of the young people in the Youthreach centres have. Psychological assessment is not undertaken because money to follow through is not available.

I commend the Minister for the excellent work she does and we look forward to working with her in the years ahead.

The Minister is welcome back to the House. Today is a landmark day following the decision in the Louise O'Keeffe case at the European Court of Human Rights, with the State being found liable for its inaction to prevent abuse. I am very glad the pretence there was no link with the State has been broken. This was with regard to the State providing all of the funding to build schools and pay teachers but in some way the boards of management are the employer. There is a potential unforeseen liability for the State, the extent of which nobody yet knows. I am sure the Minister's officials are only going over the decision now.

Similar to Senator Diarmuid Wilson, I believe more can be done and more should come under the Minister's banner. During my time on a local authority I was the chairman of a VEC. Much more can be done through the Youthreach programme. Perhaps too many children are square pegs in the round hole of standard education and are probably not ready for the discipline measures in second level education. Youthreach brings a more informal presence through which they can be educated further.

The Garda juvenile diversion programme is important. Unfortunately, too much time is spent trying to put in place a junior liaison officer in some areas where it is badly required. This should be a no-brainer and done immediately.

I came here to speak about an issue which I have raised with the Minister privately regarding the fostering by people in the State of wards of court, particularly those with disabilities. The parents of some of these children are neglected and left behind. I do not state this lightly. I state it having fought the good fight on behalf of one particular couple and child. I will not go into the details, but the Minister is aware of the case. It has taken so long and been so hard for the couple on behalf of the child that the conversation we had previously is irrelevant because the child has grown up and moved beyond that point, and the battle has now reached a new point with regard to funding, facilities and parents doing their very best for the child on behalf of the State. I am not here to beat the Minister up over this. I am raising it in the House because I have been frustrated, angered, disappointed and vexed over the inaction. The inaction was not on the Minister's part. I know and believe she has done her very best in the case I brought to her. However, the inaction of the Department and other Government agencies has been scandalous. I am disappointed to have to state this. I hope my intervention today in highlighting this inaction may get some movement in the Department and the other Departments. It is not good enough for officials to choose to put their head in the sand on this issue.

I do not ever come here to criticise lightly. I always try to bring matters to a head in the way it should be done and I have tried to do today but to date I have failed.

I am pleased that this debate is taking place. We can all see this is a time of extreme crimes, in the aftermath of which people have been left feeling outraged and with a sense of hopelessness, particularly when old people are on the receiving end. We must deal with this and other challenges at a time of diminishing financial resources. I have often found that many people do not want to engage in a debate on the rehabilitation of young offenders. That is an attitude of mind, much of which is understandable. However, we should not paint all those who commit crimes with the same brush, as many young people have been unfortunate to find themselves in such a position.

Crime does not affect any one class within the community but is spread across the board. It is only when one knows a person in one's own community who finds himself or herself in such a position that one begins to think about the human side. If detention is not about rehabilitation, we have lost the age-old wisdom in which we have always believed. I am thinking of the former prison governor, Mr. John Lonergan, whom we have heard make many speeches and give lectures, even since his retirement. He has always come across as a man of great humanity and compassion, but that does not mean that he did not do his job. He always believed there was a lot of goodness in every young person. He also believed - teachers will say the same - young people would know whether a person had a degree of respect for them through silent communication. I have often heard the phenomenon mentioned, even by people years out of school who would say, "I knew that teacher never liked me." That seems like a simplistic thing to say in the middle of a serious debate. However, all of the big policies and ideas generally do not achieve results and it often comes down to how one communicates with young people. I have always been impressed by the Garda Síochána in that regard. I have seen so many cases in which gardaí have gone out of their way to bridge the gap of suspicion, misunderstanding or a "them and us" attitude. However, we do not always see good results because today we are only talking about instances that were not as successful. Gardaí have a relationship with young people whereby they can give somebody a little warning and tell them to steer clear of a certain type of behaviour. This acts as a preventive measure, which is exceptionally important. Incidentally, we have made great progress in the provision of outlets in communities for young people to showcase their talents and energy. Unfortunately, however, there will always be some who will slip through the cracks and end up in trouble.

There are high profile cases which resulted in death because of some difficulty late at night. One can watch television programmes that broadcast such instances and I wonder how the environment was created. Likewise, the British police must deal with tribal behaviour. If young people must be placed in detention, we must contemplate segregation and I do not just mean just segregating young offenders from older ones. There are different types of young offender, some of whom have a background in extreme criminality. I am not saying, however, that they are beyond rehabilitation; I am saying there is a great danger that the person who is unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up in detention will become hyper contaminated in the prison environment if there is no segregation. The second aim should be to make the period of detention or confinement constructive, not just therapeutic, by providing an opportunity to participate in education or learn a trade. and they must see results at the end. It should not simply be a matter of serving time for the person detained. I do not know how many Members have noticed the following. When drama groups perform in prisons, talent is portrayed to the public. It is amazing how creative and enthusiastic inmates become. There may be exceptions, but the only way one will find out is by having a detention centre for young offenders who are not likely to reoffend.

An unfortunate person may be detained, but the real rehabilitation takes place outside prison. Let us consider what happens when a person leaves prison. He or she is left with an aura of being a prisoner. The news on the grapevine is that one will reoffend and it is for that simple reason doors will be closed, good company will be removed and so on. Rehabilitation must take three forms: it must be preventive, make sure there is a human side and help is provided during the time spent in prison, and that there is a follow-up programme when a young person leaves prison. If we provide for such rehabilitation, society will be better off. Let us always remember that a young offender has parents, grandparents and a family. I have outlined the reality in which they find will themselves.

I thank all of the Senators who have contributed to the debate; it has been great to witness their interest in the issue of youth justice. It is important to debate the issue and I have listened to a variety of contributions in which Senators stressed the importance of a range of topics, including primarily the need for early intervention. There has also been a strong focus on the need for rehabilitation once young people come in contact with the justice system, the need to examine the broad variety of factors that lead young people to offend and the need to intervene at a variety of levels. A number of points were made on which I will need to obtain further information which I will forward to the relevant Senators.

Senators Denis O'Donovan and Imelda Henry and a number of others asked about the forthcoming youth justice action plan which will be launched next week and covers the years 2014 to 2018. It will focus on changing the offending behaviour of young people involved in the youth justice system. It will directly complement the work and policy outline of the children's framework, the overall strategy my Department will develop for young people in the next few years. It will also form part of the national anti-crime strategy being developed by the Department of Justice and Equality as part of its White Paper on crime. Its focus is to continue the downward trend in high volume crimes perpetrated by young people and reduce the necessity for detention.

Youth crime constitutes 15% of all crimes, excluding road traffic offences. The typical offences in which young people become involved are public order offences, as has been stated, as well as alcohol and drugs misuse. It is, as Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú said, often a very distressing experience for the members of the public, older people in particular, who come into contact with anti-social behaviour. We know that youth crime will always be a concern, as many Senators have said. There has also been a lot of talk about research.

We know from hard data that most young people grow out of crime. That is the reality. It is worth noting the achievements to date. Since the first national youth justice strategy which was commenced, as mentioned by Senators Diarmuid Wilson and Denis O'Dovovan, by the then Minister, Deputy Brendan Smith, the number of children sentenced to detention by the courts on criminal conviction has consistently dropped. The operational costs of detention have reduced by more than 30%. The capital costs and the space required in the new national detention centre being built at Oberstown are approximately 50% of what was considered necessary in 2008. For the information of Senators, there are vacancies at the centre. We had a demand earlier for more places, but that demand appears to have levelled off. A feature of requests for detention from the courts is that there is this variation and one is not quite sure why. I asked the question at the time when we were getting many of those referrals, respecting obviously the separation of powers. It is important that we keep clear data for those children who are being referred for detention and the reason.

We have developed the new action plan in consultation with other Departments and, obviously, criminal justice agencies and other appropriate organisations. We have also asked young people for their views.

The individual elements of the youth justice action plan 2014-18, the young people's framework, and the national anti-crime strategy should all contribute to the ambition, which most Senators have shared today, not just react to the recurring problems but set a vision for the country of a reduction in youth crime and that young people will grow up to be responsible citizens capable of making a positive and productive contribution to society. It was agreed by everybody who contributed that early intervention is key but that the youth justice system will have to deal with more vulnerable young people. Clearly, Senators have said it is not enough to detain people. We have to try to get better outcomes from that detention. That means different programmes, educational programmes and staff training. Senator Jillian van Turnhout made the point about staff training. Such training is extremely important as is ongoing support to staff who are dealing with young people who are in these situations because the behaviour can be extremely challenging. We have seen such comments from HIQA reports. This is not behaviour which is easy to manage, often when a young person gets to the point of being in detention. We should invest in training and certainly it is an issue we need to consider in respect of the developments in Oberstown.

A number of individual points have been made by Senators. Senator Imelda Henry mentioned the need to focus on the young people who are in direct provision. I have had discussions with the Department of Justice and Equality on that issue.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout made a number of points. There appears to be some disagreement in the House as to precisely what the research is saying. I note what Senator Aideen Hayden said about today's Oireachtas report, but I have not seen it. We are definitely more data-rich about children than ever before. Given that we have invested in the Growing Up in Ireland study, the state of the nation's children report and the very useful annual report which monitors the effectiveness of the youth diversion programmes, we have much more data about children.

In the youth policy document I am launching next week, we highlight the need not necessarily for more research, although there may be some specialist areas, but to integrate the data to hand. I agree with the need to have high quality information on what is happening to children. I will ask the Department to examine specifically what gaps there are in the system and where we should be going because we are funding more research and it should be possible to have the kind of data suggested by Senators.

Senator Lorraine Higgins pointed to the links between homelessness and children who have been in care. I am developing a cross-departmental approach to children in care. We need a cross-departmental charter for children in care in order that every Department is clear on its responsibilities particularly for the 6,000 children who are in care. We have taken over the care of these children, obviously many still have contact with their parents, but each Department needs to be clear about the role it can play in helping these young people who have been in care and who are particularly vulnerable. Although we have some very good outcomes of children who have been in care remaining in education, there is a very vulnerable group. From her previous work, Senator Aideen Hayden would be very familiar with that group.

In the near future I will bring forward the aftercare legislation which will provide for an automatic opportunity for a person in care to have an assessment of need in respect of aftercare. We are spending several millions of euro on aftercare for children. We do have a national policy and great progress has been made but one cannot underestimate the needs of young people who have been in care. They are the more vulnerable group and need much help to make the transition from care to adult life.

The Government is taking a national approach to the provision of special care facilities. We are increasing the number of special care places this year and will have doubled the number from 16 to 35 by 2016. We have a need for extra places and a number are coming on stream this year. I do not have figures for the number of children remanded in custody and how it compares with previous years. I will ask for those and get them for Senator Jillian van Turnhout, as well as the response to the UN committee. In terms of court reporting and being aware of what is happening in courts, the Senator made a number of points which I will follow up. That we have changed the in camera rule and that Carol Coulter is doing the court reporting research means that we know more about the experience of children in court. Both of those initiatives, one by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, and the other by me, means that the public will be more informed about the complexity of cases before the Children Court.

I have responded to most of the points made by Senator Aideen Hayden. She said we need to look at the social and economic circumstances in detention centres and in the youth justice system and how that impacts on them. The Government has committed €15 million to the ABC programme, the area based childhood programme, and Atlantic Philanthropies has given a further €15 million in order that we can work in areas where children have been identified as having greater needs. I worked intensively with their parents at an early stage. That is an important initiative and one that could be developed further. In fact, I would like to see the same happening with the young people we are talking about, to get that intensive intervention in place.

Senator Feargal Quinn mentioned looking at some of the initiatives that have been taken in respect of community sanctions and community involvement. These points are well made. We can certainly continue to develop more community interventions.

I thank Senator Martin Conway for his comments in respect of the Child and Family Agency and the inter-agency approach we are taking. I think that is the right way to proceed.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson wants to give me more work to do. I take the point he makes about Youthreach. We need to work on a cross-departmental basis with the young people who are failing in school. That education welfare, the home school and school completion programme comes under the remit of the Child and Family Agency gives us an opportunity to do that. Youthreach is working with those young people from the ages of 15 to 25. I take his point and agree that the range of services from which these young people would benefit needs to be examined. I believe Youthreach is working very effectively with many of the young people but it may be that more services are required.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú mentioned the need for individual support and the difference that mentoring, youth organisations and the right role model can make for young people. That is the reason we continue to support the youth sector, including, Foróige, as mentioned by Senator Aideen Hayden.

Many of the interventions of the Garda and youth organisations are really making a difference in changing the direction of some young people and interrupting the cycle of criminality.

I thank Senators for their input and taking this topic so seriously. Many worthwhile suggestions have been made. I will revert to Senators on the matters on which I have not been able to give the details requested.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.