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Early Youth Interventions

An inspection of the contribution the criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland make to preventing children and young people from entering the criminal justice system

Early intervention can be described as the policies and programmes which are aimed at tackling the problems emerging for children and young people and their families most at risk. There is clear evidence to show that channelling funds to young children is likely to generate more positive changes than spending money on an older child. Many of the problems that contribute to criminal behaviour are already formed long before the young person reaches the criminal justice system.

A snap-shot study on the backgrounds of young people detained in the Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre in November 2011 shows over a third were ‘looked-after’ or voluntary accommodated children within the care system; 82% were identified as coming from a single parent family and 34% had experienced domestic violence in the home environment. In relation to educational attainment, 38% of the sample had a statement of learning needs whilst 14% had a recognised learning disability; 80% of the sample had issues relating to school exclusion or absconding from school. The vast majority of young people (92%) had misused drugs or alcohol, while 32% had self-harmed.