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New actions work to empower youth in the South

Media release
25 July 2014
New actions work to empower youth in the South

A project aiming to put South Taranaki youth on a better path to adulthood is welcoming a raft of local initiatives and a new name.

The project, the South Taranaki Social Sector Trial, needed a name that better reflected the scope of its work and its connection with young people, said manager Mel Loft.

SWEET has been chosen, with the acronym standing for ‘South Working to Enable and Energise Teens’.

The project has four key aims: To reduce offending, truancy, and alcohol and drug harm as well as to increase the number of young people in education, training and employment.

Ensuring that five Government agencies -­ Police, Justice, Health, Education and Social Development -­ work more collaboratively is driving the social sector overhaul, says Ms Loft.

Also supporting the project is the South Taranaki District Council, iwi, community groups and other interested parties.

Youth Case Co-­ordinator Saskia Mills is working intensively with young people aged between 12-­18 years, who have been referred by police youth aid officers.

She develops alternative action plans for them and works alongside the youth and whānau.

Her role is flexible and she’s able to work across all the agencies in an attempt to ensure the young person, who’s already come to the attention of police, doesn’t commit further offences.

Other initiatives are the formation of a Blue Light committee, a Youth Offending Team (YOT), a truancy working group, a psychologist in schools and an education forum.

Ms Loft said the project has overarching themes such as co-­ordinating current programmes and services and introducing new thinking.

Essentially, however, it’s about giving young people in the region a better start in life.

“Young people are one of the biggest strengths in our community.

They want to see positive change and improvement, and they want to succeed."

SWEET project is one of 16 Social Sector Trials operating around the country.

A 19-­member advisory group headed up by South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop is guiding this Trial.

Mr Dunlop says progress in the South Taranaki project is encouraging.

The focus on government agencies working together and delivering their service in the most effective way is starting to pay dividends.

Initiatives that have come out of the trial are good news for the youth of the South, he says.

Sergeant Kayanna Holley, of the Central and South Policing areas, says police are taking a proactive approach and there’s a good fit between the nationwide Youth Crime Action plan 2013-­2023 and the SWEET project.

“This is a good avenue for us to focus our prevention work on."

It means for example that national police programmes such as Keeping Ourselves Safe have been offered to all South Taranaki schools, with a number registering their interest in being involved.

In addition youth aid officers are working more closely with young people, following up on career aspirations, monitoring progress and helping them access training.

The formation of the Blue Light committee is significant because while some initiatives were already in place before SWEET was introduced, the committee has provided a better structure and more momentum to work in the South, she says.

Below is a further breakdown of these South Taranaki initiatives, linked to the four key aims:

1. Offending -­ Blue Light police committee established in South Taranaki.

Committee helps source funding for youth-­oriented events and activities such as a recent visit to the national police college graduation in Wellington and life skills holiday camps.

Youth Case Co-­ordinator role established.

Saskia Mills who is based at Hawera Police Station started in the role earlier this year.

A Family Violence Prevention Youth co-­ordinator will also be employed.

Youth Offending team established with the group made up of representative from Police, Justice, Child Youth and Family, Ministry of Education, Taranaki District Health Board, iwi and SWEET.

2. Truancy -­ Truancy Working Group set up.

The 15-­member group will work at a case management level, create community initiatives and improve tracking and monitoring systems.

3. Drug and alcohol -­ A psychologist employed to work at South Taranaki high schools, Hawera Intermediate and Youth Services in Hawera.

Group therapy sessions to be available for brief A & D intervention.

4. Education, training and employment -­ Education forum set up.

Enables schools to have a voice, particularly smaller schools struggling to access resources.

Forum has identified strengths and gaps in local areas.

Business community to be involved in helping to access employment and training opportunities.

For further information contact Melanie Loft Trial manager 0278398676 melanie.loft@tuiora.co.nz or view www.msd.govt.nz/social-­sector-­trials

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