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Progress on family support and early intervention

26 February 2004

Hon Matt Robson MP, Progressive Deputy Leader

Speech: coalition partner progress on family support and early intervention

Speech to Pacific Foundation at launch of: ”We talk in our family now” report . . . the stories of twelve HIPPY tutors ( = Home Intervention Programme for Parents and Youngsters)

6.30pm, Thur 26 Feb, Glen Innes primary school

Chief Executive Lesley Max, Youth Affairs Minister John Tamihere, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen

When I read the stories of the families on the HIPPY programme I cried and I smiled.

I cried for the anguish and torture of young people growing up in circumstances that many of us deny exist in New Zealand and then their struggle to become partners and parents who can provide the love, nurture and guidance that all of our children deserve and that they did not have.

The HIPPY tutors provide the social solidarity that has been missing. It is these parents, typified in the 12 stories who are the heroes. But it is the HIPPY tutors working one to one with families to whom all of us I owe a debt of gratitude.

That gratitude has to be shown by adequate resources from the state coming in behind the tutors and their programmes. If ever proof was needed that victims can become actors and change their own lives the results of the HIPPY programme in the stories of these 12 members of our communities who have become those actors through their own efforts and by linking up with the HIPPY tutors, provide that proof.

And now to government the often missing actor. In 2001 as Minister of Corrections my Department reported to me on proposals for Early Intervention.
The fact that the Department reported enthusiastically on early intervention with struggling families and communities as the best way to reduce crime and imprisonment will come as no surprise to you here tonight. The Report was aptly named About Time, a name that did not take me long to choose. That Report is here tonight. I feel like one of those struggling authors hawking this report around. The slowness of responding to his most obvious conclusion will also be of no surprise.

About Time’s foreword has the Minister saying: “ Prevention starts with our children. Some offenders imprisoned for the first time are teenagers convicted of their first adult offence- although they may have an extensive history in the youth justice system – these youth are identified as a group for whom imprisonment could be reduced. Once a teenager is in prison their risk of re-conviction and reimprisonment quadruples… We know the earliest possible intervention works best and cost the least. Working with a five year old to change aggressive and defiant behaviour is estimated to cost $5000 and has a success rate of 70 percent; the same behaviour at age 20 costs $20,000 and has a success rate of only 20 percent.”

All commonsense really and well known to those involved with HIPPY. So what options were presented?

Option 1: Encourage high needs young women to delay childbearing. A sexual and productive health strategy for young women and men in child protection, youth justice and adult justice
Option 2: Identify high needs births and support new mother and family by: Extending the scope of Family Start and similar programmes; Screening at birth for risk; Supporting mother and close family
Option 3: Identify behavioural needs at school entry; Early Social learning Model
. Screen at primary school entry; Provide support to home and school
Option 4 Early detection and intensive rehabilitation of high-risk young offenders
. Identify high-risk children and teenage offenders early in youth offending career
. Aggressive intervention against the key risk factors
Options 5 and 6: Early detection and intensive rehabilitation of high-risk teenage offenders.

So what has been done? From a recent cabinet committee report of which I can only give you snippets, (without risking being sent to the Tower,) there has been substantial progress on the development of the initiatives to implement the 10 options; all of the options 1-10 in About Time are being progressed; and in particular Options 1-4 aimed at preventing children progressing to early offending.

The point now is to match promises against the resourcing needs of such programmes as HIPPY. If ever there was in existence a programme that meets with needs rather than being “race”-driven this is it. I am on the committee overseeing the new Families Commission. I will take this issue to that committee. Jim Anderton, Progressive Leader and Cabinet Minister has asked me to advise you that he will bring this to cabinet notice.

The need is there. The Pacific Foundation through the HIPPY programme meets the needs. The ball is now in the government’s court to match the commitment of the Hippy Tutors and the families involved. My junior coalition colleague here, John Tamihere, who is in the Progressive-Labour coalition government with me and I will be advocates for resourcing HIPPY.

The words of Gordon, one of the parent participants, say it all: “The biggest difference HIPPY has made to us is that I am here at all – I am here for Kupa. My dream for Kupa? I don’t want him to lose his smile.” We all need to be there for Kupa so that he keeps that smile.


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