PBNI Probation Board for Northern Ireland


20 September 2021

A bespoke intervention aimed at tackling offending among young men has been launched by the Probation Board of Northern Ireland (PBNI).
The ‘Back on Track’ programme, which is the first of its kind, is aimed at young adults aged between 18 and 29 and was developed in Northern Ireland by PBNI Forensic Psychologists after being approached by authorities in Malta to help reduce reoffending among young men in their jurisdiction.

Director of Rehabilitation Dr Geraldine O’Hare explains: “PBNI was originally contacted by Maltese authorities who requested assistance in tackling ongoing issues relating to young men offending in that jurisdiction. We therefore delivered training to Maltese Psychologists and shared our current practice including this intervention designed to help move young people away from crime.

“It was clear from our work that there are many similarities between issues faced in Malta and NI. In both jurisdictions we know that the factors that lead to young people committing crime include drug and alcohol abuse, poor family relationships, a lack of training and opportunity and impulsive and poor decision making. 89% of people on probation’s caseload in NI are men and 35% are under 30 years of age. Probation has a range of services to help tackle reoffending in young men and we are now adding to that by rolling out the Back on Track Programme.”

She continued: “The intervention aims to address the problematic thinking and behaviour that has influenced and led to offending behaviour. Highly trained programme facilitators will work with each individual on a one to one basis to identify the issues that may have caused offending. They will then help young people understand how to regulate their behaviour and develop coping strategies. The intervention will help young people tackle drug and alcohol misuse and look at how masculinity, self-worth and relationships impact upon decision making.”

“This is the first time we have developed a programme that looks specifically at the issue of masculinity and gender stereotypes and how that has impacted upon their decision making. Facilitators will work with the men on both positive and negative elements of masculinity, and how to build self-esteem, confidence, and positive self-image.”

“Importantly the programme aims to help integrate those at risk of being excluded, labelled and stigmatised because of their actions as research shows further marginalisation leads to further offending. The programme is therefore about breaking the cycle of criminality and held young men turn away from offending and become valued members of society. “

Miriam Sevasta, Director of Probation and Parole in Malta said: “Over the last few years, the number of young offenders supervised by the Department of Probation and Parole (DPP) has increased and become more diverse. The need to introduce a specific intervention targeting this cohort of offenders has become even more pronounced. Similarly to the Probation Board of Northern Ireland (PBNI), the DPP supervises a caseload of around 80% male offenders, 40% of which fall under the age of 30. With the introduction of the Back on Track programme, the DPP will be able to better address the needs of its younger offenders, whilst also safeguarding society from future re-offending. The DPP is looking forward to embarking on this joint venture with PBNI in launching Back on Track”.

The intervention shall be piloted later this year and subsequently evaluated.

For more information contact PBNI Communications Unit on 028 9052 2522