Minister for Children and Youth Affairs launches Ireland’s first Bail Supervision Scheme for young people

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs launches Ireland’s first Bail Supervision Scheme for young people

Ireland’s first Bail Supervision Scheme (BSS) for young offenders is being officially launched at Government Buildings today by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, T.D.

Operated by the social justice charity, Extern, the pilot Scheme has been created in order to offer an alternative to detention for young people. It is aimed at supporting them to be at home, in education, training or employment, and to remain out of trouble with the law.

The Scheme will run for two years. It will cater for up to 25 young people in the Dublin area each year, aged between 12 and 17, and operate out of the Dublin Children’s District Court.

First for Ireland

In what is a first for the youth justice sector in Ireland, Extern has been contracted to provide the needed interventions through the use of Multisystemic Therapy or (MST). MST is an evidence-based approach using an intensive family and community-based treatment programme. It focuses on addressing all of the environmental systems that impact upon chronic and violent young offenders, including their homes and families, schools and teachers, communities, and friends.

Originating in the United States more than 30 years ago, effectiveness studies have shown that MST-based programmes help reduce re-arrest rates, out-of-home placements, adolescent drug and alcohol use, and help to keep young people in education. Extern are the only organisation licensed to carry out the therapy in Ireland, with some 500 MST teams operating across 15 countries worldwide.

How the Scheme works

Prior to the launch of the Scheme, if a young person had been denied bail, breached previous bail requirements, or incurred new charges when on bail, they would have been remanded to detention in Oberstown Children Detention Campus until their next court date.

Rather than the young person remaining in detention until their court case is finalised, staff in Oberstown Children Detention Campus can make a referral to Extern on the young person’s behalf, for a suitability assessment for the Bail Supervision Scheme.

An initial assessment is then completed by BSS staff, who meet with the young person and their family or carer. The BSS team then inform the Children’s Court if they believe the young person and their parent or main carer meet the list of criteria for MST treatment. Along with information from An Garda Síochána, the Probation Services, and any other relevant stakeholders, the Judge will decide whether to release them with the support of the service, rather than keep them on remand in Oberstown Detention Campus.

If the presiding Judge grants bail, with strict conditions, and having received assurance that the young person and family will work with the scheme, the BSS team will immediately begin MST treatment with the young person and family once they are released, alongside the statutory agencies.

Each family will be assigned an MST therapist who will work intensively with them in their community while the young person is on bail, with 24/7 support available. The duration of the programme will be between three to five months for each individual.

Minister

Speaking about the introduction of the Scheme to Ireland, Minister Zappone, said: “This intensive Bail Supervision Scheme for young people will impact upon remand trends by offering courts a new option of bail with support as an alternative to the traditional remand to detention.

“The normal rules on breaches of conditions of bail will be observed should a young person not comply, however, we believe that the added supervision and MST delivery will ensure greater compliance, closer monitoring, and less chaotic behaviour.

“We know that juvenile offending is mainly caused by difficulties within family and peer relationships, in education performance, and within the type of communities and criminal sub-cultures our young people are growing up in. This innovative, MST-based intervention scheme, delivered by Extern, enables the young people involved to experience positive change in each area of their life, by using strengths within their own ecology.

“In our duty to provide the best opportunities for our young people, there can be no doubt that the greatest gains for us as a society lie in our ability to intervene early, and therefore impact on behavioural problems before they become ingrained.”

Proven effectiveness

MST has been recognised globally as being effective in reducing criminal activity, and out-of-home placements, for violent and chronic offenders for over 30 years.
Speaking about the Scheme, Charlie Mack, Chief Executive Officer, of Extern, added: “For almost 40 years, Extern has been a leader in creating safer communities across the island of Ireland. This new Bail Supervision Scheme, using MST, highlights our commitment to continuing to work in this way for the betterment of everyone in society, and also speaks to Extern’s vision that everyone can make a positive contribution to their community.
“Extern has successfully delivered several/numerous MST-based programmes in Northern Ireland, with remarkably positive outcomes for young people and their families, many of whom have been very troubled. Having been chosen to lead in the delivery of this new Scheme, I am confident that in working alongside the Minister and her colleagues in the youth justice sector, this innovative pilot will secure a more constructive future for some of the most troubled young people in the Dublin area, and their communities.”

It is envisaged that the new Scheme will promote the concept of detention as a last resort and judges will have available to them information on how a young person is progressing.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Extern and its projects with young people, or in supporting its work can visit www.extern.org or contact Extern, Kreston House, Aaron Court, Aaron Quay, Dublin. Tel: +353 (0) 1 563 9402 or email Belinda.Kearns@extern.org

Extern in Northern Ireland
Company Registration No: NI 16083
Registered Charity Number: XN 48714
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333
Extern in the Republic of Ireland
Company Registration No: 383201
Registered Charity Number: CHY15770
Tel: +353 (0) 1 563 9402
Extern Group
Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC103226
Company No. NI 618684
Charity Number: NI00263
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333
Extern Supporting Communities
Company No. NI 637561
Tel: +44 (0)28 9084 0555
Fax: +44 (0)28 9084 7333