Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone TD, has announced that an internationally award-winning Irish youth justice programme, which has seen a 72% reduction in offending among young people taking part, is to be expanded to courts in Cork and Limerick, as well as continuing in Dublin.

The department for Children and Youth Affairs-funded Bail Supervision Scheme (BSS) is delivered by leading social justice charity Extern, one of the charities visited by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their recent visit to Ireland.

The Bail Supervision Scheme (BSS) offers courts an alternative to detention for a young person by offering the court the possibility of granting bail with intensive supervision. It aims to ensure adherence with bail conditions, reduced reoffending, and encourages engagement in pro-social activities.

It also aims to keep young people in their own home and re-engaging in school, training, or employment. The ultimate aim of the scheme is to support long-term sustainable positive change for the young person, their family and the community.

What makes the Scheme unique in Ireland is the use of Multisystemic Therapy (MST) by Extern. A globally-evidenced approach, it sees Extern provide intensive support for a young person’s caregivers, enabling them to achieve sustainable change in the young person’s behaviours.   

A pilot version of the BSS, operated by Extern, was launched in 2016 in Dublin. A formal evaluation report of the pilot, by the University of Limerick in December 2019, found that it had achieved notable successes in supporting families and young people. 

Download the Bail Supervision Scheme evaluation report

These included:

  • A 72% reduction in reoffending among young people taking part in the scheme.
  • 85% of young people who successfully completed the programme were given a non-custodial option at sentencing.
  • Evidence of improved adherence to bail conditions among young people.
  • Reduced levels of drug use and aggressive behaviour for some of those enrolled.

By reducing the need for remand places, the Scheme provides an opportunity to focus on developing successful community resources designed to prevent young people being detained in custody and preventing them from progressing further down the path of criminality.

Minister Zappone said: “I am delighted to be funding the expansion of the Bail Supervision Scheme to support young people in complying with bail conditions laid down by the court and in effecting positive change in their lives. The Scheme offers an alternative to detention for young people, and is aimed at supporting them to be at home, in education, training or employment, and to remain out of trouble with the law.

“I am also very aware of the dedication of practitioners in the field of youth justice and of the challenges that are faced daily. The key to overcoming these challenges is co-operation among us all. In this regard, I and my Department are fully supportive of working with all parties in ensuring the smooth operation of the system.”

Extern CEO Charlie Mack said: “Since 2016 the Bail Supervision Scheme has been helping change the lives of young people, families and communities in the Dublin area. Extern is delighted that the Minister is now enabling these life-changing supports to be extended to include young people and families in Limerick and Cork in the coming months. 

“The positive impacts being delivered by our BSS team would not have be possible without the continuing support of many organisations, including DCYA, An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service, Oberstown Children Detention Campus, Courts Service and Tusla. This exciting decision to expand the BSS means that together we will now see the life-changing outcomes of this programme available to even more young people, families and communities in Ireland.”

Last year saw the Bail Supervision Scheme receive international recognition for its work. 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’.