Youth pro­grammes to get lives back on track

South Waikato News - - OPINION - By LOUISE UP­STON


On Fri­day I will be spend­ing a night in Toko­roa with the PI war­dens and the po­lice, as I have done in other parts of the elec­torate, to get a first-hand look at a prob­lem ev­ery com­mu­nity has – kids who get up to mis­chief.

Most young peo­ple who break the law are dealt with ef­fec­tively and don’t re­of­fend. But there’s a core of around 1000 per­sis­tent, se­ri­ous young of­fend­ers in our coun­try. We need a new ap­proach to hold them to ac­count, help them turn their lives around and make our com­mu­ni­ties safer.

Our Fresh Start changes de­liver on Na­tional’s prom­ise to tackle youth of­fend­ing. From Oc­to­ber 1, Youth Court judges have a greater range of tools avail­able to deal with young of­fend­ers.

We have dou­bled the length of res­i­den­tial sen­tences for youth of­fend­ers to a max­i­mum of six months, fol­lowed by up to a year’s su­per­vi­sion. We have also in­creased the Su­per­vi­sion with Ac­tiv­ity sen­tence to a max­i­mum of six months with up to a fur­ther six months of su­per­vi­sion. Ex­pe­ri­ence shows that some young peo­ple need a longer, more in­ten­sive in­ter­ven­tion to turn their lives around.

We have ex­tended the Youth Court ju­ris­dic­tion to in­clude 12-and 13-year-olds. This will af­fect a small num­ber (around 40) of youth of­fend­ers who are al­leged to have com­mit­ted se­ri­ous of­fences such as as­sault. Our aim is to help them get their lives back on track as soon as pos­si­ble. Any Youth Court or­ders ap­plied to these of­fend­ers will be ageap­pro­pri­ate.

We have also in­tro­duced new Youth Court or­ders to help re­duce youth of­fend­ing. These are aimed at youth of­fend­ers and their fam­i­lies.

The most se­ri­ous re­peat young of­fend­ers will be sent to mil­i­tary-style ac­tiv­ity camps, in­volv­ing up to three-months res­i­den­tial train­ing us­ing army-type fa­cil­i­ties or train­ing meth­ods. They pro­vide clear bound­aries and re­in­force self-dis­ci­pline, per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and the val­ues of our com­mu­nity.

The camps will be fol­lowed by nine months of men­tor­ing and pro­grammes to ad­dress the causes of the of­fend­ing. Pro­grammes in­clude drug and al­co­hol treat­ment, and ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes. Along with fol­low-up su­per­vi­sion, these pro­grammes will help re­in­force the dis­ci­pline, re­spon­si­bil­ity and val­ues learned at camp.

Par­ent­ing or­ders will give par­ents of se­ri­ous young of­fend­ers par­ent­ing skills, sup­port and in­for­ma­tion about ad­dress­ing drug in­volve­ment, school fail­ure, anti-so­cial peers and abuse at home. Young of­fend­ers who are, or about to be par­ents, may also be or­dered to take part.

I have been en­gag­ing with youth in South Waikato and last month held an Al­co­hol Re­form Fo­rum with youth MP Tay-Jana Brown. Young peo­ple’s views are im­por­tant in de­ci­sions that af­fect them and al­co­hol is of­ten a fac­tor in crime com­mit­ted by our young peo­ple.

Our Govern­ment’s Fresh Start pack­age delivers on our prom­ise to tackle youth of­fend­ing and helps make com­mu­ni­ties like South Waikato safer. Tougher and more ef­fec­tive sen­tenc­ing, ex­tended Youth Court pow­ers, and new court or­ders will give young of­fend­ers a fresh start and help steer them away from a life of crime.

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