Poor report for youth
Porirua’s youth are failing school and suffering poor health despite abundant social services, a new report has shown, but Porirua City Council is unsure how much involvement to take.
A council- commissioned report, Porirua Youth Needs Assessment, was presented to the council on March 1. It was intended as a study into the viability of a youth drop-in centre in Porirua, but its author Awhina Buchanan collected research to present a broad snapshot of the city’s 12 to 24-year-olds.
‘‘Porirua continues to have high rates of skin infections, rheumatic fever, and respiratory infections, and at the four main secondary schools, the NCEA Level 2 pass rate for Maori and Pacific students are significantly lower than Pakeha/ European,’’ Ms Buchanan wrote.
This is despite the presence of at least 45 social services and 43 health services in the city, plus 200 sports programmes and many social workers in schools.
‘‘The issue might be young people’s knowledge of existing services; or further still, whether existing interventions are targeting young people appropriately.’’
Youth drop-in centres have not been proven to improve young people’s health and typically struggle with funding, Ms Buchanan writes. However, she recommended council appoint a youth development advisor, a position which has been vacant since April 2011.
The adviser would support an existing Youth Advisory Group (YAG), helping young people get involved with the community and shape their village plans. Council should also conduct a regular youth survey, as information on young people was piecemeal and incomplete.
Councillor Bronwyn Kropp got full council approval at a meeting last Wednesday to reinstate a part-time youth development officer. She hopes the role will be filled ‘‘as soon as possible’’. Money has remained in the council’s budget for the position since last March, she said.
Ms Kropp also hopes a dropin centre will be established by another organisation now council has decided against doing so.
At the council’s March 1 meeting, councillors struggled with how they could support YAG and improve young people’s lives.
‘‘My advice is to get specific and say ‘this is where we can fit’. It’s about where you see you can add some value,’’ mayor Nick Leggett told YAG member Nopera DennisMccarthy, who had asked council for more engagement with YAG.
Several councillors emphasised that getting hands-on with services was not their duty.
‘‘The council’s role is not to be the provider of things but to be the facilitator,’’ Ken Douglas said. He suggested groups full of young people, like sports clubs, could be encouraged to report on the state of their young members, saving the council doing so.
‘‘We want to stretch their thinking and involvement.’’
The report’s author Ms Buchanan told councillors they needed to decide on their involvement and act or more young people will underperform. ‘‘ Unless we look seriously at what we’re doing we’re going to come back in five years and find nothing’s changed.’’