Home > Minister McEntee extends Greentown Programme for further three years.

[Department of Justice] Minister McEntee extends Greentown Programme for further three years. (26 Jan 2024)

External website: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/882c0-minister...

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, and the Minister of State for Youth Justice, James Browne TD, have today announced a three year extension to the Greentown Programme. The Programme has been working on a trial basis for the past two years, in two local areas, aiming to reduce and disrupt the influence of criminal networks on children, as well as to provide supports for the positive development of the affected children. Recognising the Programme as an innovative, bespoke intervention approach, Minister McEntee said: I am committed to breaking the link between criminals and the vulnerable young people they seek to recruit, and  the extension of this programme, along with the enactment of new legislation to create specific offences for grooming of children into crime, sends a strong message to communities that grooming children into criminal activity will be tackled.

Criminals do terrible damage to society, to their own communities and, ultimately to themselves. But some of the worst damage they do is to the children and young people they lure into their networks. Small initial involvement can lead to more frequent and serious offending down the line and suddenly there is no way out.
The Greentown Programme is both about helping young people find a way out and about frustrating the gangs in their efforts to groom. It is creating effective early interventions so that our communities are eventually made safer for everyone.”

The Greentown Programme was designed for the Irish context by the REPPP in the University of Limerick with the assistance of international experts. The programme not only aims to disrupt criminal networks in their recruitment of children into these networks but also offers an intensive programme to support children, young people and their families. Extension of the Programme for a further 3 years will reduce the influence of criminal networks on children at risk of involvement in crime and improve the likelihood of pro-social outcomes for children who are already involved in criminal networks. 

Also welcoming the extension, Minister of State at the Department of Justice with responsibility for Youth Justice, James Browne TD added: Children are being exploited and deceived by criminal networks into believing crime can bring wealth and a lavish lifestyle. In reality, it brings debts, fear, intimidation and worse. We must ensure that we prevent the next generation from being used as pawns and runners by criminal groups. Just three years into the Greentown Programme, we have evidence that our interventions are having a positive impact. The learnings and outcome from the trial sites will be very important in developing our approaches to wrap around support for children vulnerable to criminal influences. I am pleased that the programme will continue its vital work out to the end of 2026. Furthering our understanding of how we can protect children from the influence of criminal networks and increase their chances of taking up pro-social opportunities to improve their long-term outcomes is an essential element of progressing the Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027” 

The Minister and the Minister of State intend that a plan will be developed to allow the learnings from these trial sites to be mainstreamed into existing Youth Justice Projects and into Garda operational responses.

The Greentown programme represents an important deliverable under the Youth Justice Strategy.
The Greentown programme was established by the Department of Justice in 2020 with an objective to incorporate the latest scientific thinking into an intervention design, which is specifically focused on improving the outcomes for children at risk of or actively engaged in criminal networks. With regard to anti-social behaviour involving children and young people, the Department of Justice has a strategic research partnership with the University of Limerick known as the REPPP project (Research Evidence into Policy Programmes and Practice). The REPPP team is involved in the design and implementation of a number of internationally recognised cutting edge initiatives such as the Greentown initiative and the Bail Supervision Scheme. The REPPP originally produced the “Greentown Report”, which studied the influence of criminal networks on children in Ireland, and was published in December 2016. The Report recommended the design of a programme to include interventions with children and their families to help them withstand the influence of criminal networks. 

The Greentown Programme is made up of four strands – an intensive family programme to help with parenting and general family functioning, providing young people with pro-social opportunities, supporting communities to withstand gang and network influences, and targeting groomers and disrupting their networks.
Over the last three years, there has been notable improvements in reducing the influence of criminal networks in the trial site communities. Children and families are better enabled to withstand the powerful attraction of network membership and to make pro-social choices. Reducing the susceptibility of the young people concerned to negative influence by criminal networks has laid positive foundations for greater concentration on the network disruption pillar over this second phase of the trial sites.

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