The Action Research Project (ARP 2019 - 2021) is a collaboration between the University of Limerick through the REPPP project and the Youth Crime Policy and Programmes division of the Irish Youth Justice Service (Department of Justice and Equality). The Action Research Project staff (Principal investigator and three research fellows) will work directly with 16 Garda Youth Diversion Project case study sites to examine what constitutes effective relationships between youth justice professionals and young people that are coming in contact with the law.
Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community based and supported youth development projects which seek to divert young people away from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social or criminal behaviour. There are 105 projects currently in operation nationwide. Initial baseline analysis has indicated that 60% of project time is allocated, in one form or another, to relationship building and face-to-face contact with young people in an attempt to transform their behaviour. This face-to-face interaction has been identified by project staff as an important and significant part of their work and one that warrants further in-depth examination.
16 GYDP projects are now engaged in an evidence informed Action Research Project. The project uses a Systematic Evidence Review, 'Exploring the ‘black box’ of the frontline professional and young person relationship in youth justice settings' completed by REPPP researcher Deirdre Fullerton, as a starting point for potential reform and involves co-designing with practitioners, new guidance on relationship-building to improve the effectiveness of ‘on the ground’ practice. This project plans to capacity build with practitioners to support their own evaluation of performance while also focusing on the important and unique situation of combining practice wisdom with scientific design to create something new and useful for other practitioners. As an added innovation, DJE and the School of Law in UL has arranged bursaries for 16 youth justice professionals to undertake a part-time Masters in Human Rights and Criminal Justice. The dissertation element for the programme will involve each student undertaking a process evaluation of the reform effort in their local project using a common methodology in different case study sites. This will be very valuable in terms of adding to the body of governance knowledge on programme reform but will also see a direct impact on outcomes for young people engaged in criminality.
To date project highlights include:
• March 2019: Initial ‘Kick off’ presentation and exploratory workshops with the 16 trial sites including staff, management, JLO’s and reps from IYJS, to establish working guidelines.
• April 2019: Allocation of a regional support network for participating projects with one researcher assigned to West/South (5 projects), Dublin (6) and the Northern region (5).
• May, June 2019: Initial meetings to further define our working contract, share information on the process and familiarise researchers with the locations.
• May, June 2019: Baseline data collection, interviews with projects to establish a ‘current state of play’.
• June 2019: Initial process presentation at IYJS launch event and poster presentation at the UNESCO Family Support conference in NUIG.
• June 2019: Dissemination event: Findings presentation by REPPP researcher Deirdre Fullerton and subsequent workshops where practitioners reflected on findings.
• Summer 2019: Production of a ‘Practitioners Handbook’, a resource for participating projects with an overview of the project plan. Team established and commenced coding/analysis protocol.
• September 2019: 16 Youth Justice Workers enrolled on Masters Programme, induction complete and programme up and running.