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Benson-Pope: Action Plan for Youth

19 September 2006 Speech Notes

Hon David Benson-Pope: Action Plan looks to good future for youth
The Gallery, Manukau City Council, 3.00pm

Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Fakalofa lahi atu, Nisa bula vinaka, Talofa, Namaste, Kia orana, Kia ora tatou, and warm Pacific greetings to you all!

Thank you Isobel (Isobel Evans, MC) for your introduction. As Minister for Social Development, I'm very pleased to join you for today's launch.
Welcome to everyone here, particularly my colleagues the Hon Steve Maharey and Darien Fenton, and to people from the Auckland Youth Support Network Group, who will make a presentation about the Action Plan a little later on.

Counties Manukau is a unique part of New Zealand. With around 165 different ethnic groups and 40 percent of the population aged under 24, this is a youthful, exciting, and diverse region. Manukau City's brand is the Face of the Future, and what has brought us here today is our commitment to support all young people towards a positive future.

The Action Plan for young people sets out 26 initiatives to strengthen support for at-risk young people and reduce youth offending in Counties-Manukau, Otahuhu, and other 'hot spots' in the wider region. It includes some hard-hitting new initiatives, provides ways to better co-ordinate existing work, and spans Education, Justice, Health, Police, Social Development, and non-government organisations.

The focus throughout is on providing integrated services to prevent problems from happening where possible, and, if a problem does arise, to stop it from escalating. This is the early intervention approach, and it's a key part of the Labour-led Government's social development agenda.

When we took office in 1999, there was a bare handful of social services available for young people and families. The services that did exist had a very narrow social welfare approach. We broadened the focus to social development, which provides supportive, not punitive services, and invests in potential and opportunity.

Today, there are around 30 early intervention services available, from universal services for all families to intensive services for families and young people in crisis. We can invest in these services because we don't believe in sacrificing social spending to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

Budget 06 included $10 million for youth workers and wraparound family services for Counties Manukau. That funding will be used for the initiatives in the Action Plan, in addition to government funding from other streams.

The Plan groups its initiatives under three broad themes: prevention, intervention, and crisis management. It targets young people in this region who are at risk of poor education, of long-term unemployment, of misuse of alcohol and drugs, of teenage pregnancy.

Serious enough in themselves, these issues can also result in the disconnectedness from society, the boredom, the financial difficulties, the sense of having no worthwhile future, that can lead young people into crime and sometimes into gang affiliation.
We're all aware of the problems of gang affiliation and street violence in Counties Manukau. Young men are paying with their lives for a violent street culture that has imported many of its elements, via TV, music, and movies from the US. We don't need it, we don't want it, and we must put a stop to it.

Let's also remember the parents left without a son, the women left without a partner, and the children left without a father. The cost of violence is too high for our families, too high for our communities, too high for our country.

The Labour-led government has three priority themes for the next decade: economic transformation, families young and old, and national identity.

These may sound a little distant from the very real issues we're fronting up to here today. But I have no doubt that what this Plan can achieve will have a genuine impact on these wider goals.

The government is committed to supporting all young New Zealanders into work, training, or further education. This is the pathway out of difficulty and into opportunity.

When the Labour-led Government first took office in 1999, Youth Unemployment Benefit numbers in the South Auckland area stood at 4,590. Today, they're at 1,215. This is great progress – a drop of 74%, in line with the national drop in working-age UB numbers from around 160,000 seven years ago to under 40,000 today.

We want for New Zealand a strong and vital economy, fuelled by talented and inventive people. We want safety, security, and opportunity for all families. We want pride in the face we turn to the world, in who we are and where we live.

Young people are crucial to this transformation agenda. Supporting young people to move into strong and positive adult lives is a job for us all. We all play a role, and this Action Plan will help make sure we fulfil it.

I'll finish by thanking and acknowledging the Auckland Youth Support Network, which has led the development of this Plan and will lead its implementation with local groups; and by giving my strongest endorsement to the Plan itself, and its goal of positive futures for young people in Counties Manukau and Otahuhu.

Thank you.

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