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Serious flaws in youth offending programme

Simon Power

National Party Law & Order Spokesman

10 September 2006

Serious flaws in youth offending programme

There are serious flaws in the implementation of the Government's Youth Offending Strategy Health & Education Assessment Programme, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

The pilot programme provides health and education assessments for young offenders prior to their family group conference (FGC).

"The Government is painting this programme as a success but the reality is quite different."

Mr Power has received a copy of an evaluation report, dated November 2005, under the Official Information Act.

"The report finds that the programme is having a 'positive influence' on some children, and that there have been some 'spectacular improvements' in health and in education participation, and I am delighted about that," he says.

"But for the Associate Minister for Child Youth and Family, Ruth Dyson, to claim it is 'being delivered as intended' is stretching things a little too far, particularly when it comes to its implementation. The report finds a litany of problems in the programme's process."

Among them:
• Only 55 of the expected 400 health assessments, and only 75 of the expected 160 education assessments were completed in 2004/05.
• Many referrals for assessment were being initiated at FGCs, when they were meant to occur beforehand. This meant FGCs needed to be re-convened so health and education needs could be built into offender plans.
• Only 33% of assessment intervention recommendations were fully reflected in FGC plans, and some were 'vague and lack specificity.'
• More eligible children and young people could have been referred to the programme if there was a greater coverage of health and education assessors with the trial region.
• There is confusion among agencies as to whose responsibility it is to fund specific health and education intervention recommendations.
• A lack of appropriate services 'appears to be inhibiting the uptake of assessment recommendations into FGC plans and into the implementation of the plans'.

"The Associate Minister has since revealed to me that in 2005/06, only 227 young offenders received an assessment of any type despite the fact that the pilot area has expanded.

"I'm mystified as to why the pilot would be expanded without ensuring that the services were in place in those areas to actually help these kids with their problems.

"The aims of the programme are commendable, but essentially it's failing to reach enough kids, there aren't enough people to do the assessments, the recommendations from the assessments aren't making it into the FGC plans, and even if they do, there aren't sufficient services available in the community to follow through on them.

"This is more evidence that this Government has allowed youth justice to languish as a poor cousin."

Ends

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