Home > GYDP young people: response to Covid-19 public health measures.

Guiney, Ciara (2020) GYDP young people: response to Covid-19 public health measures. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 74, Summer 2020, pp. 16-17.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland 74)

On May 2020, the then Minister of State with responsibility for Youth Justice, David Stanton TD, launched a report that examined the response of young people participating in Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDPs) to the Covid-19 public health measures.1 The report was a collaboration between the Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project based in the School of Law at the University of Limerick and the Department of Justice and Equality.1,2 The design of the report allows for rapid assessment by policymakers.1 



Youth justice workers (YJWs) (n=113) based in GYDPs across Ireland (n=104) were invited to complete an online qualitative survey. Data were collected between 23 April and 28 April 2020. Survey questions were centred on four areas (p. ii): 

1          Young people in their GYDP and compliance with Covid-19 public health measures.

2          Observed impacts for young people’s behaviours since measures were introduced.

3          How Covid-19 and restrictions affected GYDP work practices.

4          Requirements for front-line work with young people in GYDPs arising from Covid-19. 

Where feasible, YJWs liaised with colleagues, local Gardaí, other community services, young people, and parents/caregivers.

There was a 97% response rate. 

Survey focus

The characteristics of the survey participants included: 

  • Participating in GYDPs and having previous involvement in youth offending
  • Being cautioned mainly with a criminal offence
  • Representing a small cohort of Irish young people (approx. 1 per 1000). 

However, this population is consistent across Irish communities. In 2019, some 3,604 Irish youth were involved in GYDPs. YJWs were given autonomy on the prescribed population. The youth fell into three categories:

  • Young people engaged with their GYDP (95%)
  • Young people known in some capacity to the GYDP (64%)
  • Young people in the locality covered by the GYDP (18%). 


Compliance with Covid-19 public health measures

YJWs reported that most young people participating in GYDPs have been to ‘varying degrees’ in compliance with Covid-19 public health measures.1 However, a minority of current and former participants were non-compliant. 

Lifestyle changes and coping behaviours

Covid-19 health measures have resulted in greater reliance on social media and gaming to keep in touch with friends, mainly at night-time. YJWs acknowledged that due to changes in routine that engaging with young people has become more challenging. They report that in some cases family bonds have become stronger. However, for others, the measures have resulted in greater stress, giving rise to staying away from home. In some instances, adults have influenced non-compliant behaviour. YJWs have also reported that changes have negatively impacted on the young person’s mental health. 

Prosocial behaviour

More than 50% of YJWs acknowledged that the majority of young people have engaged with prosocial behaviour and altruistic behaviour. Prosocial activities included:

  • Self-care (education, physical, and mental health)
  • Altruistic behaviour within family (e.g. caring for younger siblings)
  • Altruistic behaviour external to family (e.g. checking-in on and doing jobs for the elderly, picking up litter, and fundraising) (p. iv). 

Challenges for GYDP engagement with young people

GYDP engagement with young people is centred on a ‘relationship-based’ intervention (p. v). While imaginative approaches were used to sustain engagement, several practical challenges emerged in attempts to do so (p. v). For example: 

  • Antisocial behaviour: Challenging antisocial behaviour and promotion of prosocial behaviour required the physical presence of the YJW and the young person. While YJWs overcame this problem using remote and online social media, this area is not addressed in policy and guidance.
  • Technical IT support: Access to IT equipment and communication tools were needed by GYDP and by young people and their families.
  • Financial pressures: Increased household costs were experienced by some families (e.g. food, cleaning products).
  • Recreation/health: Recreation/health items were required (e.g. games for families and sanitisation equipment).
  • Tools, training, and guidance: These were required remotely in areas of education, mental health, and parent and family support.
  • Funder support: Funder support was required (e.g. budget security and return to work guidance).
  • Targeted re-engagement: Limitations of remote working were acknowledged, particularly with vulnerable young people, and targeted re-engagement was required. 

Study limitations

The main limitations acknowledged by the authors included: 

1          Observations of behaviour were only reported by YJWs participating in the survey.

2          The survey population represented a small cohort of young people in Ireland and in individual communities. 


Minister Stanton commented that he was proud that young people were involved in prosocial behaviours and activities during Covid-19. He believes that these actions illustrate that these young offenders are engaging with their communities and are attempting to turn corners, and it is vital that they continue to be supported. The Minister acknowledged the importance of this research and thanked the REPPP project and the Department of Justice and Equality for their collaboration.2

On 1 May 2020, a draft of the new Youth Justice Strategy was published online for consultation.3 The Minister called on all young people to contribute to this online consultation so that their voices can be heard.2,4


1              Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP), University of Limerick (2020) How are young people participating in Garda Youth Diversion Projects responding to the Covid-19 public health measures? A local to national qualitative profile: report 1. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality and Department of Children and Youth Affairs. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/32053/

2              Department of Justice and Equality (2020) Report finds majority of youth offenders are compliant with Covid-19 restrictions. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality. Available online at: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR20000090

3              Department of Justice (2020) Draft Youth Justice Strategy 2020–2026. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality. Available online at:  http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Draft_Youth_Justice_Strategy_2020_(Public_Consultation).pdf/Files/Draft_Youth_Justice_Strategy_2020_(Public_Consultation).pdf

4              Department of Justice (2020) Public consultation on the Youth Justice Strategy. Survey available online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RJW2H9H

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 74, Summer 2020
August 2020
Page Range
pp. 16-17
Health Research Board
Issue 74, Summer 2020

Repository Staff Only: item control page