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Reducing Youth Offending Programme

Reducing Youth Offending Programme

For many years successive Governments have grappled with what to do with young people who commit offences. We have all heard the media reports about the number of New Zealand youth who are 'out of control'. We've seen the images in the media of youth who have committed horrendous crimes including murder, aggravated robbery, burglary. We count ourselves lucky and are glad that 'it's not a child from my family'. We wonder what's wrong with these children and their families.

The simple fact is, for most of the young people committing crime in New Zealand, nothing much is wrong with them or their families. Kids commit offences, and while it's wrong, much of it is about pushing boundaries.

But there is a small group of young people who commit offences that are serious and/or repetitive. I reiterate that this group is small in number. Most of them know what they are doing is wrong but they can't seem to help it. They and their families have struggled to change but they don't know how. Their mates could be in the same position. Often they have not attended school, they have turned to drugs and alcohol and they have become separated from their family and community. These are the young people who are our focus today.

I'd like to welcome you to the launch of the Reducing Youth Offending Programme. This programme is about helping that small group of kids who go on to lead a life of crime, those kids we normally give up on because they are too hard to change.

Two Government Departments, Child, Youth and Family and Corrections have joined together, and have pooled their resources, knowledge and skills to develop and establish this programme.

We all know who these kids are- they are the ones who were trouble at school or didn't attend much, we see them 'hanging around', they appear in our criminal system and we say 'I knew that would happen!' This Government and its' Departments are focused on identifying these youth as early as possible and this programme is targeted at them. Our focus is to reduce the chances that they will go on to lead a life of crime.

Why was Multi-Systemic Therapy Chosen? This programme uses Multi-Systemic Therapy, or MST, which is a model that was developed in America. It focuses on the youth, their peers, their school, their family, and the communities in which they and their family live. Working within the family is largely what makes MST work. Overseas, MST has achieved positive results; between 20 and 40% reduction in re-offending and improving lives in a number of ways.

Is This Programme an Example of a 'Soft on Crime" Approach? The Reducing Youth Offending Programme is not a soft option. It's hard work for the youth and their family and it requires a great deal of commitment. The Case Worker assists with repairing relationships - between the youth and their family, and between the family and the wider community. It would be much easier to ignore these kids and their families - but through hard work and commitment we can help them make lifelong changes. Healing, positive growth and restoration are important elements of the Reducing Youth Offending Programme.

It's easy to say 'hey, I'm a victim too!' and expect others to provide for us. It's so much harder to do for ourselves. I'm reminded of the adage 'Give a man a fish and you feed him once; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life." This reflects the focus of the Reducing Youth Offending Programme. It's about teaching families to be independent and helping kids grow up in a positive way.

I know that both Departments have worked hard to ensure that this programme will address the needs of our Maori and Pacific young people and we'll be watching results in this area closely.

Our Case Workers, the Supervisor, and the Programme Manager all come from a variety of backgrounds. They are required to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I would like to make special mention of you today. You have a challenging role to play and you need all of our support and assistance.

Summary In closing, thank you for coming today. -The Reducing Youth Offending Programme is a model demonstrating how Departments can work together to better our communities. If it achieves the outcomes we want, there will be a group of New Zealand youth whose lives have changed for the better and families who are much better placed to care for themselves and their children.

Thank you.


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