An award-winning youth justice programme, run by leading social justice charity Extern, has seen a 72 per cent reduction in reoffending among young people taking part in the scheme.

The figure is included in an independent Evaluation Report into Ireland’s first Bail Supervision Scheme (BSS) for under-18s, launched today by The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, TD.

The Extern run BSS began in 2016, when The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) commissioned the charity to provide a pilot scheme for young people attending the Dublin District Children’s Court (Court 55). It was aimed at keeping them out of detention in Oberstown Children Detention Campus, at home and re-engage in school or training.

Today’s report also reveals, that by comparison, a control group, who had been refused bail, experienced a reduction in reoffending of 37 per cent, stating that ‘…on average the young people enrolled on the BSS had a reduction in reoffending almost twice that of the control group.’

Other findings pointing to the efficacy of Extern’s Bail Supervision Scheme contained in the report, include:

  • 85% of young people who successfully completed the programme were given a non-custodial option at sentencing.
  • An average reduction in criminal detections which was twice that of the control group of young people not enrolled.
  • Evidence of improved adherence to bail conditions among young people.
  • Reduced levels of drug use and aggressive behaviour for some of those enrolled.

The Scheme works by providing intensive support for young people’s caregivers to enable sustainable change in young people’s behaviours. Utilising the globally evidenced Multi-Systemic Therapy model, it aims to ensure adherence with bail conditions, reduced reoffending and encourages engagement in pro-social activities, while reducing the number of young people who are detained in custody while awaiting court decision.

Speaking ahead of the launch, the Minister said: “I wish to thank all the agencies, statutory and non-statutory bodies, for making this possible. The bodies involved include the Courts, An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service, Oberstown Children Detention Campus, Tusla and Extern (who are commissioned to operate the scheme).

“As Minister I was delighted that the Bail Supervision Scheme has received recognition both nationally and internationally. In the Correctional Excellence Awards 2019 category at the International Corrections & Prisons Association (ICPA) held in Buenos Aires it received the “Community Corrections Award”. It also received the 2019 Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Award in the category of ‘Collaboration’. This has highlighted the need to consider the expansion of the scheme to other areas in the near future.”

Extern CEO Charlie Mack said: “I would like to thank Minister Zappone and her team for entrusting us with getting this important project off the ground, and also our partners in the justice, courts and probation sectors, and An Garda Síochána, who have worked with us to ensure these young people could access the opportunities and support they needed to change their lives.

“As Ireland’s leading social justice charity, we lead the way in supporting those who are often the hardest to reach in our society, and the findings of this report highlight that this effort has been more than justified with regards to the BSS. Importantly, we hope it also highlights that as a society, we need to work towards ensuring that other young people, many of whom face challenges in their lives, are also given the opportunity to access the life-changing opportunities offered by BSS, in order that they too can choose a brighter future for themselves.” 

The evaluation report has been carried out by The Research Evidence into Policy Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project, part of the School of Law in the University of Limerick, on behalf of the DCYA. The research was conducted by Dr. Catherine Naughton, Prof. Sean Redmond and Barry Coonan and the report can be viewed online on the Department’s website

The report further praised Extern’s BSS team members for their “non-judgmental, empathic and flexible” approach to working with families, as well as citing their teamwork and relationship-building work with other professionals as an important contributing factor in the programme’s success.

The full Evaluation Report is available on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs website from today, at https://www.gov.ie/en/news/d09885-minister-zappone-launches-evaluation-of-the-bail-supervision-scheme-/

For further details on the Bail Supervision Scheme, and Extern’s other work with young people and other vulnerable groups across Ireland visit www.extern.org.