Time run­ning out for Watch pro­gramme

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - VIR­GINIA FAL­LON

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.’’

PHOTO: KRIS DANDO

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.

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