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.

South Waikato News - - NEWS / HE PU¯ RONGORONGO -

‘‘ 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.

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