Ms Lewsley spoke after meeting Minister for Justice, David Ford MLA to exchange views on issues including community safety and attitudes to children and young people.
“Minister Ford has already made several positive comments on children and young people, which reflect my concerns,” said the Commissioner. “For example the need for a joined up approach across Government when it comes to addressing young people who are at risk of offending.
“Earlier this week the Minister highlighted the fact that the vast majority of young people in juvenile detention had special educational needs, or learning difficulties and sometimes mental health problems. Many come from difficult home circumstances.
“It is clear that an early intervention from a number of agencies to support these young people and their families would have greatly reduced the risk of them offending.”
Ms Lewsley said that young people need to be at the core of community safety strategies.
“Too often there is a black and white demonization of young people. The reality is that young people, given the opportunity and support, can be powerful leaders in change and can be the focus for grass-roots developments.
“Young people need to be involved in debates on community safety, policing and justice, and I welcome the fact that Minister Ford has not only listened to these arguments, but also that they reflect much of his own thinking.”
In NICCY’s ongoing Make It Right campaign, March was designated as ‘Community Safety’, and included calls for Government to provide a more positive focus on children and young people, and to increase efforts to overcome community divisions