Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Ceisteanna (105)

Bernard Durkan


105. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which adequate accommodation remains available for juvenile offenders with particular reference to ensuring adequate facilities for education and rehabilitation and segregation from the more serious offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21006/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Children)

This question relates to the extent to which corrective training and rehabilitative facilities are available for juvenile offenders, with particular reference to ensuring the most modern facilities are made available and that segregation can take place to the extent of eliminating encouragement towards re-offending as a result.

I thank the Deputy for his question. He will be aware there is a commitment in the programme for Government to end the practice of detaining children, which under the Children Act means all young people up to the age of 18 years, in adult facilities. This will be met later this year when the extension of the Oberstown campus results in the transfer of responsibility for 17 year old boys from the adult prison system to the child detention schools.

I congratulate the Minister on his first parliamentary questions session and I wish to acknowledge the good work of his predecessor in the same Department.

Arising from the Minister's reply, I ask the extent to which it will be possible to perfect the quality of services available to young juvenile offenders, with particular reference to ensuring that the more serious of those offenders do not have general access to and influence over first-time offenders. Can we be assured that the best possible standards will apply as in European best practice? To what extent can comparisons be made with the facilities available in other jurisdictions?

I thank the Deputy for raising those very important points. I wish to assure him that the delivery of child detention services is very much focused on education and rehabilitation of those involved and those in detention. This is in order to minimise re-offending and to support the early re-integration into the community.

A number of criteria have been taken into account in assessing the level of management risk with each child in detention, including their age, the medical and mental health background, the availability of family supports, the level of educational attainment and the history of criminal offending. These factors are recorded when a child is admitted to the campus and they are factored into an individualised management plan in each case.

Only yesterday I attended an event organised by Business in the Community, a group which seeks sponsorship from industry in order to ensure an element of re-integration, employment opportunities, education and training. I wish to acknowledge the contribution of Business in the Community in partnership with other agencies. I assure the Deputy of the importance of the issues raised by him and he can be assured that these factors will be fully taken into account in the context of the individualised file or management plan for each child detainee.

I thank the Minister. What is the basis for the initial assessment when a juvenile is referred to juvenile custody? For example, different reasons may be at the root of the problem in the first place. There may have been neglect or abuse, there may be behavioural problems or a combination of factors. It could be a variety of reasons.

The extent to which a particular juvenile is approached by the system may well determine the outcome of rehabilitation and training. To what extent will the proposed institutions provide this type of support in lieu of parental guidance?

The answer is in the affirmative. From a medical, education and training, psychological and psychiatric point of view, all of these factors are recorded on a child detainee's admission to the facility and a care plan will be conducted and monitored in that context.