Commitment required from all agencies on early youth interventions

“The benefits of early interventions have been well documented in terms of social, emotional, educational and financial outcomes. However, inspectors encountered a number of issues, including a limited overall strategy for justice agencies, a lack of co-ordination between Executive Departments, a cluttered landscape of provision leading to potential duplications and a lack of evaluation of outcomes,” said Acting Chief Inspector, Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Brendan McGuigan.

Published today, 24th July, the report, Early Youth Interventions – an inspection of the contribution of the criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland to preventing children and young people from entering the criminal justice system, found that without commitment from Ministers and those responsible for health and social care, education and criminal justice to implementing an early intervention approach, Northern Ireland will not be able to effectively tackle the problems emerging for at risk children, young people and their families.
The inspection aimed to examine and assess early youth intervention arrangements across the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.
“The role of criminal justice in this area is less than that of other bodies whose primary role is working with children. However, it is inevitable that, in some cases, a lack of early intervention and support for children and young people and their families will lead to conflict with the law and therefore criminal justice agencies have a responsibility to contribute in this area.”
The report recommends that there is a clear commitment to the early interventions approach from the Ministerial representatives on the Ministerial Sub-Committee for Children and Young People. The Sub-Committee is chaired by the two Junior Ministers from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, who have responsibility for children and young people and all departmental Ministers are members.
“Ultimately the question of whether to fully commit to an early interventions approach is one for Ministers and there needs to be consensus between those responsible for health and social care, education and criminal justice and to some extent also with those responsible for social development, employment and learning and the environment.
“While the ultimate impact may take several years to become apparent and the costs may need to be shifted from other services there needs to be a clear commitment to an early intervention approach encompassing all areas of government policy and practice in relation to children and young people. The alternative is a continued failure, as a society, for our most vulnerable children.”