Home > Garda Youth Diversion Programme: review and evaluation.

Guiney, Ciara (2021) Garda Youth Diversion Programme: review and evaluation. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 76, Winter 2021, pp. 24-26.

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In September 2020, the Department of Justice and Equality published a review and evaluation of two Garda Youth Diversion Programmes (GYDPs).1,2,3 The aim of the evaluation was to examine the effectiveness of two pilot youth justice intervention programmes supported by the Department of Justice and Equality: Programme A and B.1

Programme A


Launched in 2017, Programme A targets young people who are no longer suitable for or have refused to participate in the main GYDP.1 The nature and frequency of crimes carried out by these young people, such as possession with intent to sell, assault causing harm, possession of a dangerous weapon, and dangerous driving, have led to a ‘serious level’ of contact with the criminal justice system. While the programme does not target crimes specifically, assessments suggest that 12 of 16 youths currently attending this programme may be involved in organised criminal networks.

The programme involves the young person moving through six stages:

1  Months 1–2: Determining suitability – building a relationship between the young person and the key worker.

2  Months 2–6: Building trust – continuing to build the relationship and develop an understanding of the programme purpose.

3  Months 6–24: Enabling engagement/personal growth – being willing to acknowledge issues and engage in new activities.

4  Months 18–30: Enabling contemplation – acknowledging the need to change; putting plans in place.

5  Months 30–42: Recognising lifestyle change – making more positive lifestyle changes.

6  Months 36–48: Sustaining change – taking full personal responsibility for actions and decisions.


Based on available data, participating in Programme A for 18 months of the four-year intervention has stopped or reversed the downward life trajectory in eight of these young people. Interviews with programme participants showed that they understand that their offending behaviour has resulted in their referral to the programme. While a ‘clear desire for change’ was expressed by the participants (p. 7), for most this has yet to be achieved, especially in relation to substance abuse and peer group/lifestyle.1


The performance of Programme A thus far has met expectations and is deemed value for money with regard to its intensity and duration. Hence, the authors recommend that further funding is made available for a minimum of four years to enable the programme cycle to be completed and to allow for a full assessment and evaluation.

Programme B


Launched in 2015, Programme B provides ‘individually tailored support’ to young people that do not engage or benefit from the main GYDP.1 Additionally, there is a risk that their offending/antisocial behaviour will increase. This model is based on an existing social care programme that focuses on young people with challenging behaviour or are viewed as a risk to themselves and those around them. Overall, Programme B has supported 43 participants. The programme duration on average is nine months but can range from three to 33 months. The main objectives of the programme are to:

1  Strengthen family relationships and support them to remain together.

2  Assist young people to develop problem-solving skills.

3  Assist young people to develop social and life skills, including positive peer interaction and positive community engagement.

4  Support young people to maximise their educational and vocational opportunities.

A final supplementary objective is to deliver intervention dosage at the optimal level.

Participants on this programme were court involved on referral or during engagement (47%); involved with the criminal justice system (53%); repeat offenders (42%); had charges for atypical youth offending; or diagnosed with mental illness (56%). Since the launch of the programme, 32 cases have been closed, 12 of which were positive (e.g. programme or probation order completion) and 20 were negative (e.g. lack of motivation, poor attendance, and poor engagement).


The authors note that it has not been possible to ‘thoroughly evaluate’ progress on the long-term objective achievement (p. 9).1 However, in just over one-half of closed cases, the criminal risk has decreased or stabilised. In the urban area where the programme is based, stakeholders view it as a vital component of the youth justice infrastructure. Interviews with participants illustrated several positive outcomes from engaging with the programme:

  • Not hanging around with the same people
  • Going back to school/education
  • Not getting into trouble with the Guards
  • Not using drugs/alcohol
  • Having better mental health
  • Having more confidence
  • Finding things they liked to do.


Several recommendations were made by the authors, including the importance of more funding for at least a year to allow the Programme B framework to be monitored and evaluated and to carry out data collection and prepare programme reports. In addition, it is important to identify the reasons for the high number of negative cases (n=20); programme participants need to be included in this process. Further funding has also been recommended to allow the programme to continue for three years in order to be evaluated properly. Pending a positive evaluation, it is recommended that Programme B should be extended to other areas.

Overarching conclusions and recommendations

The authors acknowledge that pilot programmes can provide important learning for policymakers who use new approaches to target societal issues.1 However, to make full use of this learning it is vital that funders and grantees have a clear idea of how information should be reported and what kind of information is needed from the outset. With regard to the two programmes in this evaluation, this aspect has not been clear. The authors recommend that agreement should first be reached on these issues and that both programmes should be adequately skilled and resourced so that reporting requirements are met in order to steer the direction of Irish youth justice policy going forward.


1 Egan A (2020) Pilot A and Pilot B: programme evaluation 2019. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/33043/

2 Sandra Roe Research (2020) An evaluation of the Work to Learn Programme. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/33043/

3 Sandra Roe Research (2020) An evaluation of the QQI Co-Ordinator Programme. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/33043/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Issue Title
Issue 76, Winter 2021
March 2021
Page Range
pp. 24-26
Health Research Board
Issue 76, Winter 2021

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