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Early Intervention

27 June 2002

Early Intervention – Getting To Tomorrow’s Criminals Before They Get To You

‘One-stop shops’ in schools to deal with problem kids before they become tomorrow’s hardened criminals is a key commitment for the Progressive Coalition, Corrections and Courts Minister Matt Robson says.

He will deliver a speech on ‘Early Intervention’ today at 4.00pm at the Pacific Youth Justice Expo in Manukau City, Auckland.

“Too many kids getting into trouble fall between the cracks if there is no co-ordination between police, social workers, teachers and health professionals.

“‘One-stop-shops’ bring all these professionals together under one roof on school premises. It’s our best chance of getting to at-risk kids before they do any serious damage,” says Matt Robson.

“The Progressive Coalition wants to see ‘One-Stop-Shops’ in all low decile schools across the country.”

“The cost is approximately $18.5 million to have a ‘One-Stop-Shop’ in the 281 decile one schools.

“Compare that to the loss to New Zealand of up to $300 million dollars per offender – that’s the cost of imprisonment, the loss of earnings, not to mention the emotional cost of crime to the victim.

“I believe we can intervene at any stage of the life of an offender, from birth onwards. I know that some find that controversial, but I believe it’s a challenge we must face.

“We’re hiding our heads in the sand if we don’t face up to the fact that there are kids out there who will become tomorrow’s murderers and burglars.

“We can’t predict with absolute accuracy which kids will grow up to develop criminal tendencies, but we can have a pretty good idea.

“For example we have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the Western world. I don’t want to punish teenage mums, I want to give them the skills to be good mothers and the confidence to develop their own lives so that their kids don’t go off the rails.”

The Progressive Coalition will also:
- Reduce the number of high risk births by working with teens already caught up in the social welfare and justice system. They need sexual health services, and interventions to teach them about the advantages of delaying child bearing.
- Extend ‘Family Start’ programme to better support high-risk new families, particularly teenage parents.
- Deal with kids in trouble at primary school by extending ‘Project Early’ programme.

“My report on reducing re-offending, About Time, released last year, concludes that Early Intervention works best and costs less. It is the most successful of all interventions. More successful than programs in prison, more successful than post release re-integration,” says Matt Robson.

For example an intervention for a five year old who is aggressive and defiant is estimated to cost about $5000 per case with a success rate of 70%. The same behaviour at the age of 25 years costs $20,000 and has a success rate of only 20%.

“As Minister of Corrections, I have made Early Intervention a priority. I want to continue that work in the next government.

In this year’s budget our Clark-Anderton led government:
- Increased the funding for social workers in schools
- Increased funding for violence prevention programs in the family
- Secured $12 million to set up Day Reporting Centres for young teenagers not yet heading to prison, but on their way.
- YOTs (Youth Offending Teams) across New Zealand made up of personnel from Child Youth and Family, Police, education and Health.

“What better way to keep the public safe than to intervene before kids start out on a life of crime?” says Matt Robson.


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