How to act in the face of poverty
Government ministers have indicated that the groundbreaking Social Sector Trial in the South Waikato could become permanent. Petrice Tarrant reports.
‘‘ You can’t tell a family what to do, but if you see a kid who’s poverty stricken...do you do nothing?’’
That is a question Marama Tahapehi has asked herself everyday while heading the South Waikato Social Sector Trial (SST) into its fourth year.
Her answer? No, but making that decision is the easy part, she said. What comes next goes against years of culture, tradition and ingrained mindsets.
In 2011 the government implemented a programme in Tokoroa, which in 2013 expanded to South Waikato, designed to look at all community services that were available to help better the lives of children between the ages of 12 and 18.
The experimental project was known as the Social Sector Trial.
The ministries of health, social development, education and justice, alongside the Police, wanted eyes on the ground to see what initiatives were working, what were not, and what was missing.
Four years on, now capturing all children between the ages of 5 and 18, and the ministers have indicated it could become permanent.
Success has already come through reduced truancy, youth offending and alcohol and other drug abuse matched by increased education training and employment opportunities.
Tahapehi, who took on the role as SST Project Manager for Raukawa Charitable Trust (the NGO leading the programme for the government) ten months ago, said the initiative is a game breaker that needs support and buy-in from the community.
The project is regularly reviewed, the latest review showing 32 out of 34 tasks were actioned over 12 months. ‘‘That is awesome.’’ The tasks were sectioned under five different goals including reduce truancy, reduce youth offending, reduce alcohol and other drug abuse, increasing participation in education, training and employment and supporting communication, collaboration and coordination of services.
Tahapehi said a big challenge was penetrating the homes of the children and youths they help.
‘‘ It’s all very well and good you tell these amazing messages to kids but then you drop them back off home where their parents are drunk or they get abused.’’
And the kickback from some community members has been interesting, she said.
‘‘I’ve had businesses say ‘ oh you can’t do that’ to some goals and I say ‘yes we can if you jump on board’.’’
This year’s funding pool of $247,000 needs to cover 19 actions put in place with 40 milestones to complete, Tahapehi said.
The ultimate aim is for the trial to do itself out of a job through sustained outcome change for South Waikato children and young people. But we are not there yet, she said.