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Maori youth workers support National youth moves

30 January 2008

A national network of Maori youth workers supports new youth justice policies released by the National Party yesterday.

Te Ora Hou Aotearoa is a network of youth and community development organisations that has been working with at-risk young people and their families around New Zealand for more than 30 years.

“We agree with John Key that Supervision with Activity is an effective sentence available to the court that is rarely used. We endorse the plan to put more resources into this kind of programme which can match a highly skilled youth worker with a young person in a mentoring relationship” said youth advocate and Te Ora Hou spokesperson Jono Campbell.

“We also agree with Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Beecroft that the emphasis should be on early intervention and prevention in the early years as this is where the behaviours and attitudes contributing to offending by young people are developed” said Mr Campbell.

Te Ora Hou programmes in Whangarei, Gisborne, Hastings, Wanganui and Christchurch have provided training for volunteer mentors to get alongside vulnerable young people from an early age.

“The empirical evidence from researchers around the world suggest that boot-camps are counter-productive in efforts to reduce offending by young people.

However Te Ora Hou agree with the National Party that intensive support provided by skilled youth workers who are culturally competent and professionally qualified can make a real difference and more resources are desperately needed for these essential services.”
Te Ora Hou believe that long-term mentoring relationships, pro-social skills training and strengthening positive connections between young people, their family, education and the community are all effective approaches to reducing offending by young people.

“Finding committed, skilled and safe youth workers who are willing to work with young people with complex social and personal needs is always a challenge but the benefits for young people and future generations are enormous” says Mr Campbell.

“Te Ora Hou are pleased to see politicians interested in the issues of positive youth development, but do have concerns about the way vulnerable young people may be used as a scapegoat in election year and we are keen to see the debate being based on robust research and positive approaches to the issues” said Mr Campbell.

Te Ora Hou hosted a national youth hui in Flaxmere last week that was attended by nearly 200 young people from some of the most vulnerable communities in the country. A survey of these young people revealed that those who had been involved with Te Ora Hou for a longer time had better relationships with their school, neighbours and the Police than those who had been involved less than a year.

Te Ora Hou do not support proposals to lower the age of criminal responsibility or increasing use of coercive lock-up facilities which provide little opportunity for rehabilitation.

ENDS

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