The majority of young people participating in Garda diversion projects are being compliant with Covid-19 restrictions, research has found.
The study found that the cohort of young people tended to be compliant in keeping within the 2km distance, but less so in maintaining social distance and not gathering in groups.
The majority reported that a small minority of young people were non-compliant with the Covid-19 public health measures, such as meeting friends in groups.
The report does find that a small number of young people were involved in more serious breaches, and these tended to be associated with alcohol or drug misuse.
The majority of young people who are linked in with a Garda Youth Diversion Project appeared to be complying with Government restrictions regarding social distancing and travelDr Sean Redmond, University of Limerick’s School of Law
The study was undertaken by the Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project, based at the School of Law, University of Limerick.
The report is the first in a series looking at how young people participating in the Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDP) throughout Ireland are responding to the Covid-19 public health measures.
Surveys were conducted with youth justice workers in Garda Youth Diversion Projects in the context of the Government’s Covid-19 public health measures introduced on March 12.
The youth programmes are designed to help move young people away from crime.
The survey also found that non-compliance by adult family members and communities had a negative influence on some young people’s compliance with Covid-19 public health measures.
Dr Sean Redmond, principal investigator at the university’s School of Law, said: “The majority of young people who are linked in with a Garda Youth Diversion Project appeared to be complying with Government restrictions regarding social distancing and travel.
“A minority of young people were not complying, continuing to meet with their friends. Some are reported to have been involved in offending and anti-social behaviour, but overall this activity appears to be reduced since Covid-19.
“This group of young people represents a very small proportion of the youth population in Ireland, possibly 1/1,000. However, it is an interesting group because they are young people who have been detected for committing crime and referred to a Garda Youth Diversion Project.”
Almost all projects responded to the survey, so the patterns are very compellingDr Catherine Naughton, research psychologist
The study also looked at lifestyle changes for the youths in the Garda diversion projects and found that a lack of routine and structure had a considerable impact on this cohort of young people’s sleep patterns.
Several justice workers reported that young people were connecting with other young people during the night through online gaming and social media for those with access to technology and sleeping during the day.
Several of the justice workers expressed concern for young people’s mental health.
While there were reports that the young people’s additional caring duties for both younger siblings and grandparents were contributing to strengthening family relationships, there were also concerns raised about increased conflict within some families.
Dr Catherine Naughton, research psychologist on the programme, said: “We have surveyed 105 Garda Youth Diversion Projects in communities across Ireland.
“Almost all projects responded to the survey, so the patterns are very compelling.”
Minister of State with responsibility for Youth Justice David Stanton said he was “proud” that Ireland’s young people were involved in a range of activities.