The Children's Right Alliance, a coalition of over 100 member organisations working directly and indirectly with children and young people in Ireland, has published their sixth edition of the Report Card. Assessed by an external panel, Government performance is graded against their own stated commitments from the 2011 Programme for Government.
Against the backdrop of concrete steps being taken to complete the closure of St. Patrick's Institution and the ongoing development of the National Children Detention Centre in Oberstown, due for completion by 2015, the Children's Rights Alliance gave the Government a B+ grade for progress made in the area of child detention. This represents a similar grade to the 2013 Report Card.
When complete, the National Children Detention Centre will accommodate all children on remand or serving a custodial sentence. At present, all 17 year olds serving a custodial sentence have been transferred from St. Patrick's Institution to a dedicated unit in Wheatfield prison. This has been cautiously welcomed by Emily Logan, Ombudsman for Children, however, a small number of 17 year olds remain on remand in St. Patrick's Institution. Significant progress has been made towards the complete closure of St. Patrick's Institution which will a long overdue watershed moment in the detention of children in Ireland.
Immediate Actions for 2014
Immediately withdraw the reservation to Article 10 (2b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Given the positive measures taken in relation to St. Patrick’s Institution and towards the building of a dedicated National Children Detention Facility, the Government must withdraw this reservation without delay.
Ensure the legislative entitlement to aftercare for children extends to those leaving detention
Young people leaving detention have ongoing and complex care needs similar to young people leaving care. The commitment by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to introduce a statutory right to an aftercare plan should be extended to include those in detention.
A review should be carried out on the use of remand for children and young people to ensure that it is used appropriately
Data on the use of remand should be reviewed to ensure that children and young people are not held on remand longer than necessary and that their cases come before the court within a reasonable period of time. Resources must be made available to ensure that children and young people held on remand are kept separately to children who have been convicted and are serving a sentence.
An individual case tracking system should be put in place to track the outcomes for young people who leave detention
There is a need to adopt an evidence based approach to youth justice and interventions by examining trends in the behaviour of young people following their release from detention in order to determine whether they have been rehabilitated, reoffend or end up in adult prisons. This would allow the Irish Youth Justice Service to plan resources and ensure that best practice is put in place to prevent reoffending.