A call has been made for urgent action after the latest figures showed nine out of 10 young offenders released from custody in Northern Ireland go on to reoffend.
According to the audit office, repeat criminals account for 70% of all youth crime and disorder and the rate of reoffending has been on the rise since 2010/11.
Comptroller and auditor general Kieran Donnelly called for a specific strategy to guide the Executive in youth justice policy and help co-ordinate the delivery of services.
He also said youth conferencing - learning first-hand from the victims of their offences about the harm their behaviour has caused - may not be appropriate for the most prolific cases.
The audit office said: “Reducing reoffending by young people requires significant political and cross-department support to be successful.
“In practice, this will require public bodies to work collaboratively and to maintain their engagement with partners in single outcome agreements.
“They must work effectively, not only with traditional partners in the criminal justice system, but also with key departments and agencies in health, education and housing.”
While young offenders were more likely to commit another misdemeanour within the first month of release than any other group, the number of offences committed by young people has been reducing in recent years.
Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma, said: “It seems youth justice has been put on the Government's long finger.
“We now need urgent and sustained action from Government following today’s report and we expect departments to fulfil their duties under the Children’s Services Co-operation Act, which requires them to work together in the best interests of children.”