I propose to take Questions Nos. 299 and 366 together.
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.
That being said, I share the Deputy's concern that we do all that we can to prevent children and young people from coming under the influence of criminals. 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.