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Family Group Conferences more effective than court

20 June 2006

Family Group Conferences more effective than court

Research shows that family group conferences are more effective than the court system in reducing re-offending by young people, says CYF minister Ruth Dyson

“The fact is that family group conferences are actually tougher for young offenders than going through the Youth Court. They have to face up to their victims in the presence of families and supporters. This is far more likely to make a young person think about the consequences of their actions.”

"In some cases more than one family group conference may be held for a child or young person. Family group conferences may be held to review the conference plan or because the plan has broken down and further decisions need to be made - this may or may not be because of re-offending by the young person, so it is wrong for the National Party to automatically leap to that conclusion," says Ruth Dyson.

She said repeat offenders made up only a tiny proportion of young offenders that came to the attention of the Child, Youth and Family Service.

Ruth Dyson said the government was taking a broad, responsible approach to the complex youth justice area.

Child, Youth and Family recently released a report into Youth Justice Capability which included recommendations to improve the co-ordination and follow up of Youth Justice Family Group Conferences. Almost $10 million in funding will be allocated to youth justice services after the merger of CYF with the Ministry of Social Development on 1 July.

Background

A family group conference (FGC) is a formal meeting:

- in care and protection cases, for members of the family group/whanau/hapu/iwi to discuss with social workers what needs to be done to make sure a child or young person is safe and well cared for.

- in youth justice cases, for members of the family group/whanau/hapu/iwi, the young offender and the victim to decide how the young offender can be held accountable and encouraged to take responsibility for their behaviour.

Family Group Conferences are the forum to determine whether a child or young person committed an alleged offence, and, where the offence is admitted, to develop a plan that ensures:

- the child or young person is held accountable and encouraged to accept responsibility for their offending;

- the interests of the victim are taken into account;

- any measures taken for dealing with the offending are designed to strengthen the family/whanau, and foster their ability to develop their own means of dealing with offending by their children or young persons; and

- the principles of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act are followed.

The Family Group Conference process, or Family or Youth Courts can also require a young offender to be subject to a curfew, attend a drug or alcohol abuse programme or other form of rehabilitation.

ENDS

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