The statistics sought by the Deputy are contained in the annual reports of the Committee set up under section 44 of the Children Act 2001 to monitor the effectiveness of the Garda Diversion Programme. These reports are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and available to members in the Library. They are also published online at http://iyjs.ie/en/iyjs/pages/publications. All youth crime cases are required to be sent to the Garda Diversion Office for consideration and the statistics for each year, broken down by Garda District, are set out in the annual report for that year. Figures for 2018 are not available yet, but will be available when the 2018 report is published later this year. The 2019 statistics and report will be available in the course of 2020.
The Deputy will appreciate that crime prevention and investigation, including in relation to the involvement of children in crime, are operational matters for An Garda Síochána in the first instance. My Department is committed to supporting them in this regard. That being said, I am committed to tackling youth crime and my department is taking a number of different steps to address the number of youth offences being committed.
An important initiative in that regard is the " Greentown" project, a research project led by the REPPP Project (Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice) at the School of Law in the University of Limerick (UL). The REPPP project is a strategic research partnership with UL which is supported by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and also by my own Department. Its specific focus is on examining the recruitment by criminal networks of children in Ireland and to make recommendations for interventions to disrupt this.
In the absence of international models of intervention that could be readily deployed, the original Greentown report (December 2016) recommended the design of a programme to include interventions with children and their families to help them withstand the influence of criminal networks. This new "Greentown Programme" has been designed with the input of leading international expertise on crime and criminal networks, together with Irish scientific, policy and practice expertise in child protection and welfare, drugs and community development.
I understand that it is intended to commence a trial of the Greentown Programme approach, on a pilot basis, during 2019.
More generally, I am currently developing a new Youth Justice Strategy with the assistance of an interdepartmental and interagency steering group. The new Strategy will address the full range of issues relevant to youth justice, including how best to tackle the serious issues raised in the Deputy's Question.
A key issue here is how to ensure an integrated approach across all agencies, but in particular the relevant child welfare programmes, Garda Youth Diversion Projects and schools, to ensure a sustained and holistic response and that integrated services are provided to respond to the situation of children at risk, tailored to the individual child in the context of the specific family and the specific community and the issues they face. The new Youth Justice Strategy will be published in draft form for a further round of public consultation before the end of this year and will be finalised early in 2020.
My Department also provides funding through the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) to support the operation of 106 Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs). These projects are community based multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which primarily seek to divert young people who have become involved in crime/anti-social behaviour.
For 2019, IYJS has a renewed emphasis on preventative work by GYDPs, looking at the child in the context of the specific family and the specific community. This includes family support work and working with children aged 8 to 11. The Department also supports pilot projects, to help develop better approaches in areas such as engagement with hard-to-reach or more challenging children, as well as mentoring initiatives.