Le Chéile attends the Youth Justice Strategy Forum

Anne Conroy, CEO of Le Chéile, attended the Youth Justice Strategy Forum this morning in Dublin. This was hosted by the Minister David Stanton TD who is heading up a review of how our youth justice system is working or not working and planning a new strategy.

There were three speakers; a solicitor, a Senior Probation Officer and a young person. The young man was accompanied by Heather, his mentoring coordinator, and he gave a very honest account of his own experience of coming into contact with the youth justice system. His background was one of family breakdown, homelessness and early school-leaving. He ended up on probation and availed of mentoring with Le Chéile. His story is one of resilience and hope. He is now doing well in Youthreach, meets his mentor regularly and has ambitions for the future.

Some of the feedback from the young person included:
– The sense of confusion about charges and legal procedures.
– The negative impact of delays between the offences happening and being dealt with in Court.
– The negative attitude of some Guards e.g. stopping and searching for no good reason and when the young person is trying to make positive changes.
– The value of positive education such as Youthreach, which understands where young people are coming from and different ways of learning.
– The value of a mentor, a positive relationship, not to mention the importance of going for food!

To quote directly from the young person:

“I’ve been meeting my mentor since November last year, and overall I think the mentoring has been better than I expected. The social side of going out for food is nice, and the next step here is trying Indian food for the first time, making sure I don’t order anything too hot….There have been dips, where I would have lost some motivation to meet my mentor, but Heather and my mentor would always manage to track me down and get me in the frame of mind / give me the kick in the arse to meet up again, and when I do, I always leave the meeting feeling better and glad we met up.
Added supports that I didn’t expect have been helping me get a local gym membership, which I use most days. This has helped keep me active and fit, and helps keep me in a good head-space. It also gives me somewhere to go when I finish Youthreach. Heather linked me into other local support organisations who helped me get a laptop, this is helping with my LCA work and will hopefully see me through college.”

To conclude, it is welcome that the Youth Justice Strategy is being reviewed. This is a great opportunity to make changes and Le Chéile Mentoring will contribute to the debate and play our part in working towards earlier intervention, better supports for young people and families and more effective services.

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