The Irish Penal Reform Trust has said a joined-up national policy is needed for children and young people in care who come in contact with the justice system.

The trust is launching the research report Care and Justice, which examines the extent to which children and young people in care come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Approximately 30% of cases in the children's court involve children with care experience but, according to the report, there is still a shortage of systematic data collected by gardaí and Tusla to identify the extent of the issue. 

The report calls on better co-ordinated response and interactions between the Irish Youth Service, gardaí and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Acting Executive Director of Irish Penal Reform Trust Fíona Ní Chinnéide said it is important to note the vast majority of children in care do not come into contact with the criminal justice system, but she said that for those that do "we have to do better".

"This report is about the very small number within the care system that come in contact with the criminal justice system and for those we simply have to do better.

"We need joined up collaborative approaches across agencies, we need systematic tracking of outcomes of young people in care with aggregate data published and we need equal or greater access to services and supports as those enjoyed by children who live with their families."

Ms Ní Chinnéide said the key to improving care for these children is the collation of data, she said they cannot respond to an issue without knowing all the information.

And she said they need a joined-up national policy.

Tusla publishes aggregate data, however Ms Ní Chínneide said involvement with the criminal justice system is not an outcome that they report on and this is one of the most serious outcomes so she feels this indicates flaws in the system.

She said it is not about an issue with disclosure, it is more to do with inconsistencies on how data is collected and shared between individuals in care homes, Tusla and gardaí.

She said in its current state the Garda Youth Diversion Programme is not adequately responsive to the needs of children in care.

When it comes to young people who appear before the courts coming from the care system, Ms Ní Chinneide said we need to acknowledge the challenges that are there.

She said: "What we are finding is that the Garda Diversion Programme is not sufficiently responsive to the situation of  young people in care.

"So for example placements can break down, young people can be moved to a different area or maybe a place only becomes available that's very far from home, so there are challenges on the garda side with tracking and engaging with the young person and that limits the ability, or lets say it reduces the effectiveness of the gardaí and the ability of young people to access the Garda Diversion Programme."

Ms Ní Chinneide also highlighted a new pilot scheme, the Bail Supervision Scheme, which she said is very successful and has seen the number of young people on remand in Oberstown reduced substantially.

She said 25 children were dealt with through this scheme in 2017 with positive outcomes.

However, she said it is a multi-systemic approach and depends on engagement with a parent so she expressed concern that children in the care of the State cannot access these services and supports.