Time running out for Watch programme
A programme saving the country millions of dollars is struggling to maintain its funding.
David Hanna, director of Watch ( Wesley Action Tauira Court Health) said Capital & Coast District Health Board had pulled out of funding the programme, though he thought it had initially committed to a further year of funding.
Robert Sarich works for Watch, which targets 17 to 25-year-olds who have appeared in court and are on course to prison.
He said he’d spent seven years keeping people out of jail.
Hanna said the $90,000 it costs to run the programme was small change compared to the price of housing prisoners.
‘‘It’s about $95,000 to keep someone in jail,’’ he said. ‘‘You do the maths.’’
Hanna said Watch was initially funded by several government agencies, but the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections stopped funding it last year.
Chas Te Runa, senior communications adviser for the district health board, said increased demands meant the organisation had to focus on providing community health services.
‘‘Our funding of $20,000 per year for Wesley Community Action is due to end on June 30, 2016,’’ he said.
‘‘As a number of other government agencies fund this work, we can’t justify further investment of health resources.’’
Hanna said he thought all hope was lost when the district health board withdrew, but the Ministry of Social Development had committed to a further 12 months.
‘‘But nothing’s set in stone,’’ he said. ‘‘Every year it’s the same. We worry about money.’’
Sarich said he was not dealing with really bad people dodging jail.
‘‘Most of them turn up in court on driving or dishonesty charges.
‘‘They think they’ve dodged a bullet, but don’t realise they have more work to do.’’
He said offenders often failed to complete community service or pay fines, so found themselves in breach of the judge’s orders.
The charges started to pile up and the cycle continued until they finally received a prison sentence.
Sarich helps by encouraging and assisting young offenders to complete their court ordered tasks and gets them into employment or study.
He said it was the only programme in the country to offer that help.
‘‘Everyone knows it works. Lawyers, prosecution, probation all recommend us.
‘‘Our champions are the Porirua judges, who all support us.’’
Te Upoko Tuara, left, and Isiah Bailey with the lunch they prepared for Judge John Walker’s visit last year. The young men learned cooking skills in the Watch programme.