Irish Penal Reform Trust

Review and Evaluation of Garda Youth Diversion Programmes 2019

25th September 2020

Garda Youth Diversion Projects (“GYDP”) are community based, multi-agency youth crime prevention initiatives which primarily seek to divert young people who have been involved in anti-social or criminal behaviour. They are managed by community-based organisations and administered by the Department of Justice, the Irish Youth Justice Service and the Garda Youth Diversion Office.

On the 18th September 2020, three reports reviewing certain youth diversion projects in 2019 were released by the Department of Justice. While each project was unique, common themes featured in the reviews of all each of these projects. The young people engaging with the programmes often struggle with substance abuse, come from socioeconomically disadvantaged areas or are from homes struggling with substance issues or poverty. Organised crime involvement was a particular challenge when evaluating Programme A participants. However, there were also common features in the evaluations of the programmes. Throughout each of the reports some of the noted developments reported include increased self-esteem, improved mental health, decrease in risk of substance abuse, improved familial relationships, more expansive social circles and improved work and professional skills. Further findings from the reports are detailed below, by programme.



Launched in 2017, this programme targets young people who are no longer suitable/refuse to engage with the GYDP. It specifically targets those involved with the criminal justice system at a serious level. It is a 4-year intervention programme with 16 participants – 75% of whom are repeat offenders (4 or more previous charges)

Key findings: A halt/reverse of the downward trajectory in 50% of the participants lives; and positive results within the first 4 phases (suitability, trust, engagement/personal growth, contemplation) of the ongoing programme.

Recommendations: Funding extended to 4 years to complete the programme and perform a midway evaluation using effective systemic data gathering and proficient reporting; funding increase to €136,256 as was applied for in 2019; subject to funding, in-house drug and alcohol treatment as part of the programme.


Launched in 2015, this programme is individually tailored to support young people who are failing to engage with mainstream GYDP projects. Modelled on a pre-existing social care programme outside of the youth justice system and targeting young people with challenging behaviour who may pose a risk to themselves or others.

Key findings: Since 2015, 45 cases have been taken on and 32 of them have been closed: 12 cases (38%) were positive closures – successful completion etc and 20 cases (62%) were negative closures – low attendance, non-engagement etc. Stakeholders stated they view this programme as a crucial part of interagency response in the urban area where it is based.

Recommendations: 1 years funding for the completion of a monitoring/evaluation framework and systemic data collection structure for Programme B. This is crucial to highlight and understand reasons for negative closures and would include input from former participants; further 3-year funding until 2023 for in-depth evaluation of the cost-benefit return of the programme (financial data collection, analysis of social return); exploration of how to reach those outside of the ‘motivated to change’ category; and longer step-down service to deter negative closures and early exit from the programme by participants.


A work experience initiative for young people. In 2018, 56 participants entered the programme (69.6% male, 30.4% female),with a 66% completion rate. The majority of participants were 15 years old and in education.

Key findings: Recruiting participant employers was challenging and establishing bank accounts and revenue accounts for participants was challenging. Improved work skills, qualifications, training, experience, social skills, reduction in anxiety, focus on future, and broadened friend groups were all positive outcomes reported by participants – as well as community benefits and improved self confidence.

Recommendations: Partnership with a specific bank to establish accounts for participants; encourage employer participation through the media and highlighting positive nature of the programme; extra support for young Traveller participants; and additional funding for administration/a longer running period and involvement of youth services.


A programme which identifies, encourages and supports at risk young people in the midlands with a bespoke, alternative educational setting to reduce likelihood of re-engaging/engaging in crime. Many participants struggled with early school leaving, learning difficulties, criminal behaviour, drug misuse, mental health issues and socioeconomic difficulties.

Key findings: 136 learners have participated between 2015 and 2019 (56.5% male, 43.4% female) with a 90% retention rate and a 92% progress rate; life skills positively developed; programme was good practice in inter-agency co-operation and displayed positive parental and familial engagement and benefits; and reductions seen in drug misuse and offending behaviour.

Recommendations: Increase tutor hours and tutor training; transport funding for participants; and expansion of programme while maintaining the education standard as is active now.

Reviews and evaluations of these diversion programmes are available on the Department of Justice website.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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