Child Participation Case Study

The Irish Youth Justice Service supporting the voice of young people in assessing the national juvenile detention programme

How young participants in Garda Youth Diversion Projects (juvenile diversion projects) were involved in decision-making in a review of the National Diversion Programme

Background Information

The Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP) is a community-based multi-agency initiative, which seeks to divert young people who have become involved in crime or anti-social behaviour. During 2018, the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) engaged in a review of the national GYDP. As part of this process, IYJS wanted to get the views of young people who are part of Garda Youth Diversion Projects.

The IYJS approached the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) and asked for its help in seeking the views of young people to inform the review. The DCEDIY gave responsibility for developing and conducting this consultation to Hub na nÓg, its centre of excellence on children and young people’s participation in decision-making. IYJS established a steering committee to oversee the consultations with representatives from the DECDIY, Hub na nÓg and organisations that deliver GYPD Projects, funded by IYJS.

 

The project on which we involved young people in decision-making

The IYJS wanted the views of young people in Garda Youth Diversion Projects around the country to inform a national review of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP). Hub na nÓg led on involving young people in the GYDP review and implemented a three-stage approach:

The topic on which we were looking for their views

What works well and what needs to be changed in GYDPs

The reason we wanted their views

To inform a revised Youth Diversion Project model and funding agreements for organisations that manage Diversion Projects

The decision-makers that facilitated and listened to their views

The Hub na nÓg team who conducted the consultation process with young people

 The decision-maker/s responsible for acting on their views

The IYJS

 The age profile of the children and young people

13 – 21 years

 Other relevant information about the children or young people (e.g. disability, ethnic background, social disadvantage, etc.)

All the young people in the Advisory Group and in the consultations were current or former participants in Garda Youth Diversion Projects.

How we gave space, voice, audience and influence to young people’s views

SPACE

How we ensured a safe and inclusive space to hear the views of young people

Things we considered What we did
The space or setting where we got their views (this may include online settings)
  • We held the meetings of the Advisory Group and the seven consultations in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
  • We ensured that the rooms we used for these sessions were appropriately and comfortably laid out.
  • We provided snacks and pizza.
  • We explained to the young people that the reason we were using the DECDIY building was because of the importance of the issue and of their voice to the process.
How you identified the children and young people to be involved
  • Youth justice workers on the consultation oversight group advised on the recruitment of young people for both the advisory group and the consultations and collaborated with the IYJS and Hub na nOg on recruitment.
  • Staff from the IYJS collaborated with the Hub na nÓg team in planning the recruitment of young people for the advisory group with the help of youth justice workers working in GYDPs.
  • IYJS staff also recruited young people for the seven consultations with the help of youth justice workers working in GYDPs.
How you involved those who were directly affected by the topic
  • We worked exclusively with GYPD Projects and the consultation oversight group in seeking the involvement of young people in this process.
How early in the process they were involved in decision-making
  • The six young people on the Advisory Group were involved from the very start and informed all aspects of the consultation process and the recruitment process.
How the process was inclusive and accessible
  • We ensured that young people from all parts of the country were involved both in the Advisory Group and in the subsequent consultations with the help of The Garda Youth Diversion Programme projects and the consultation oversight group.
  • The IYJS paid the travel expenses of all young people and the youth justice workers who accompanied them to the Department of Equality Children Disability Integration and Youth (DCEDIY).
  • Seven consultations were conducted in the DCEDIY in Dublin (six for current GYPD youth participants and one for former GYDP youth participants). Young participants attended from all over Ireland.
  • There was a maximum of eight participants at each consultation with three facilitators to ensure that all young people would be supported to be heard.
  • In both the advisory group and at the consultations, a number of young people struggled with literacy and concentration and facilitators worked one-to-on with these young people to support them to express their views.
  • Young members of the advisory group attended each consultation and explained the process to other young people.

VOICE

How we gave young people a voice in decisions

Things we considered What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views
  • The Head of the IYJS attended the first meeting of the Advisory Group and explained the review process and stressed how interested he was in hearing and acting on the views of young GYDP participants in this process
    • Pilot the draft consultation methodology and work with the Hub on refining and improving it.
    • Advise on the best approach to recruiting other young people for the consultations.
    • Attend (individually or in pairs) the consultations and explain the process to other young people in a youth-friendly way.
    • The Hub na nÓg team explained the role of the Advisory Group was to:
    • Work with the Hub Team to develop a youth version of the consultation report.

 

How we made sure they knew their views would be taken seriously
  • The Head of the IYJS, other IYJS staff and the Hub na nÓg Team repeatedly reminded young people on the Advisory Group and at the consultations that the IYJS was committed to taking their views seriously.
How we informed them about level of influence they could have on decision-making
  • The Head of the IYJS and the Hub na nÓg Team were honest with the young people on the Advisory Group and at the consultations that the views of many stakeholders were being sought, but that the views of young people would be taken seriously and acted on where possible and appropriate.
  • Young members of the advisory group attended each consultation and explained the process to young people and assured them that their views would be taken seriously.
The methods we used to get their views
  • A series of methods were piloted with the Advisory Group and following the feedback at the pilot, we used the methods outlined below at the seven consultations.
  • The methods ensured space, voice audience and influence, and enabled the young people to be active and engaged, as outlined below:
    1. Welcome by Advisory Group (Why you are here. What IYJS want to find out.)
    2. Introductions: In pairs, young people shared their names, where they were from and what they would do if they won the lotto. They were then asked to introduce their partner to the full group.
    3. Discussion: What are the best things about my project?
      1.  In small groups, young people were facilitated to discuss their views and complete individual A4 lifelines (designed sheets with blank speech bubbles). All groups came together with their individual lifelines and were facilitated to write their ideas on an A2  poster designed like a brick wall with the title ‘The best things about my project’.
      • What works well and what does not work well in GYDP projects?
        1. Two sticky purple walls (6-foot x 8-foot facilitation sheets) were mounted with these questions:
          • Wall 1: What works well to help young people avoid being in trouble?
          • Wall 2:  What does not work well to help young people avoid being in trouble?
        2. Young people wrote their answers on A5 coloured paper (one idea per page). Facilitators supported young people and scribed for those who did not want to write. Both walls were full of ideas.
      • Categorising their ideas- Young people were asked to categorise their ideas, by moving similar ideas (A5 coloured pages) into groups/categories and naming each category until all ideas were listed under named categories/issues that work well and that don’t work well in GYDP projects.
      • Getting more information about their ideas- Each category was written on individual A3 landscape templates, designed like jotter pages, with two questions: ‘what works well?’ and ‘what should be changed or improved?’ Young people moved around the room in groups of 2 or 3 and wrote their ideas about every category, supported by facilitators. At the end of the process, very detailed suggestions and ideas were listed under each category.
    4. Evaluation: Young people completed a one-page evaluation from the draft National Participation Framework that asked them how they had been given space, voice, audience, and influence during the consultation.
How we made sure they could identify topics they wanted to discuss
  • The methodology was designed to provide blue-sky thinking to the young people based on two open questions:
    • What works well to help young people avoid being in trouble?
    • What does not work well to help young people avoid being in trouble?
  • The responses to those questions provided the content for deeper discussions, suggestions and identification of priorities.
Please describe the topics and issues they raised
  • A wide range of issues was raised by young people which were compiled in a consultation report Report-of-Consultations-with-Young-People-on-Garda-Youth-Diversion-Projects.pdf (ipo.gov.ie)
  • Among the key findings were:
    • According to young people, the best things about their projects were Youth Justice Workers followed by trips, activities, facilities, meeting new people and making new friends, learning new things and developing new skills, drop-ins, courses, positive and youth-friendly environment, programmes and education and employment support.
    • Young people felt one meeting a week was not enough time to help them stay out of trouble and suggested there should be more set times per week as well as more drop-in times.
    • Young people also felt projects should be open at weekends as this is the time young people are most likely to get into trouble.
    • The distance young people have to travel to projects can also impact attendance, with young people in rural areas having further to travel.

AUDIENCE

How we made sure that there was an audience (decision-makers) for young people’s views

Things we considered What we did
How we developed a report or record of the young people’s view
  • The IYJS commissioned a report writer who attended the meetings of the advisory groups and each of the seven consultations and compiled a report of the young people’s views
  • The Advisory Group worked with the Hub Team to develop a youth version of the consultation report.
  • The advisory group suggested an activity pack for young people in GYDPs to be used by youth justice workers.
  • The activity pack outlines the key findings from the consultations on A4 and A3 posters and provides space for young people in GYDPs to add their own ideas. It also outlines the fact that the IYJS used the views of young people to inform a revised GYDP model and revisions to the work plan and funding arrangements for organisations that deliver projects on behalf of IYJS.
  • Activity packs were sent to all GYDPs nationwide to give feedback to young people about the consultation findings and about how their views were used.
How we checked back with them that their views were accurately represented
  • The Advisory Group met five times over the six-month timeframe of the consultation process, and we conducted a dedicated session to feedback on the draft finding from the report of the consultations.
  • In this session, we checked that their views and those of other young people were accurately represented.
How we involved the decision-makers who are responsible for influencing change (other than yourself)
  • The IYJS requested the consultation process in the first place so were partners with the Hub team throughout the process and were involved at every stage of the consultation process.
  • The head of the IYJS attended the first meeting of the Advisory Group to assure the young people of the commitment of the IYJS.
At what point we involved decision makers other than yourself in the process
  • As noted above, the IYJS requested the consultation process in the first place so were involved from the start.
How we and other decision-makers showed our commitment to listening to, and acting on young people’s views
  • The Hub team always started every session (advisory group meeting or consultation) by stating the commitment of the team to ensuring that the views of young people would be taken seriously.
  • Members of the IYJS team were actively involved in the recruitment for the advisory group and for the consultations and in attending meetings and consultations.
  • The IYJS assigned a budget to the consultation process to ensure that the travel expenses of all young people and accompanying youth justice workers were paid.
How we supported young people to play a role in communicating their own views to decision-makers
  • An unexpected opportunity arose during the consultation process. The IYJS decided to hold a first-ever National Youth Justice Conference some months after the consultations.
  • The IYJS asked the Hub team if the young people on the Advisory Group could be supported to speak at the conference. The Hub team fully believed in the capacity of these young people and undertook to work with them to prepare for this opportunity.
  • Five members of the Advisory Group spoke about their involvement in the group and outlined the finding from the consultations at the first National Irish Youth Justice Conference in November 2018, attended by the Minister for Justice and over 300 policymakers, Gardaí, youth justice workers and other senior stakeholders. Their participation in the conference was supported and facilitated by the Hub Team.

INFLUENCE

How young people were given updates at key points in the development of the plan

Things we considered What we did
How we informed young people about the topics on which we wanted their views
  • The Advisory Group met five times over the six-month timeframe of the consultation process, and we conducted a dedicated session to feedback on the draft finding from the report of the consultations.
  • In this session, we checked that their views and those of other young people were accurately represented.
  • At later meetings, we updated them on decisions being taken by IYJS based on the consultation findings.
How their views were acted on by the appropriate decision-makers (what happened to their views)
  • The views of the young people informed:
    1. a revised Youth Diversion Project model
    2. a revised annual work plan and funding agreement for organisations that manage Diversion Projects
    3. the National Youth Justice Strategy published in 2021.
Whether we continually checked back with children and young people about the ways you used their views with decision-makers (if possible or appropriate)

We updated the Advisory Group on decisions being taken by IYJS at every meeting.

How they were given full and age-appropriate feedback explaining how their views were used (or not) and the reasons for decisions taken
  • The youth activity pack developed by the Advisory Group outlines the key findings from the consultations on A4 and A3 posters and provides space for young people in GYDPs to add their own ideas. It also outlines the fact that the IYJS used the views of young people to inform a revised GYDP model and revisions to the work plan and funding arrangements for organisations that deliver projects on behalf of IYJS.
  • Activity packs were sent to all GYDPs nationwide to give feedback to young people about the consultation findings and about how their views were used.
How we enabled them to evaluate the process throughout
  • The young people on the Advisory Group completed an individual one-page evaluation form after every meeting
  • This evaluation form explores how they were given space, voice, audience and influence
  • Every young person who attended the seven consultations also completed the same one-page evaluation form
What young people said in the evaluation

Some quotes from the members of the advisory group about their involvement:

  • “The advisory gave me a chance to meet sound culchies.”
  • “Gave me lovely food…with jalapeños.”
  • “Gave back info to leaders, so they get a better insight into what is working and not working.”
  • “We came up with different methods that would work the best in the consultations.”
  • “I realised how lucky I am for the facilities I have in my project.”

Impact

The changes that were made because of young people giving their views

The views of the young people informed:

The learning for our organisation

The key learning for the organisations involved in this consultation process

 Looking back, how did the final outcome compare with our initial assumptions?

 What worked well?

 If we were doing it again, what we would do differently?

The timeframe for the consultation process was tight. It would have been very valuable to have had time to go around the county and conduct some consultations in GYDPs in the settings and spaces where the young people meet.

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