Youth programmes to get lives back on track
MP for TAUPO
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.