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‘Lack of investment in youth a ‘social time bomb’

15 August 2011

‘Lack of investment in youth a ‘social time bomb’ waiting to detonate,” says FYD co-founder

Foundation for Youth Development (FYD) co-founder Jo-anne Wilkinson, has welcomed a new report looking at child outcomes in New Zealand, saying that although the findings are of huge concern, it shows clearly where improvement is needed.

The report, commissioned by Every Child Counts, reveals that New Zealand ranks 28th out of 30 OECD countries for child outcomes and has one of the lowest spending rates on children at $18, 000 per child under six compared to $60, 000 in Scandinavia, which has one of the best outcomes.

“The report findings are not a great surprise; New Zealand has lead the OECD in negative youth statistics for many years. Lack of spending in this area means we have a social time bomb on our hands, so I’m pleased at the dialogue resulting from this latest report, let’s hope it leads to investment in growing great kiwi kids rather than picking up the pieces,” says Wilkinson.

Wilkinson has also acknowledges youth welfare reforms announced by Prime Minister, John Key, over the weekend as a step in the right direction for teens, but would like to see greater emphasis on job creation.

“John Key’s latest announcement regarding youth welfare is a move in the right direction but I would like to see a clearer plan around work experience and job creation, with industry and business working alongside the Government and provider organisations.”

Wilkinson also states that investment is needed across the spectrum from pre-school right through to young people transitioning into the job market.

“The UK riots of the past week have demonstrated the sad and disturbing result of not investing in the engagement and well-being of young people. These are young people who are so disenfranchised that they feel no connection to their community, and have a laugh at its destruction.

“While that situation is unlikely to manifest here, we can’t ignore that the same social issues exist. In fact at 27%, youth unemployment is 7% higher in this country. Our young people deserve better and this investment needs to start from day one.”

Wilkinson and her partner, mountaineer Graeme Dingle, started FYD over 15 years ago and their youth development programmes – Kiwi Can, Stars, Project K and MYND – have achieved a high level of success.

“We set up FYD following six months in the Arctic where we were shocked by the high levels of social deprivation, alcohol abuse, suicide, mental health and more, we felt so thankful coming from New Zealand where these issues for young people ‘just didn’t exist’.

“When we got back, we realised that we’d been incredibly naïve. Our country’s own track record with young people was not very flash. So after much research we developed FYD, our approach is all about being the fence at the top of the cliff not the ambulance at the bottom.”

Wilkinson is an advocate of holistic programmes that envelope young people from an early age right through to the end of high school and beyond, to ensure that there is support for those that need it as they make the transition from child, to adolescent, to adult.

“We recently took part in a four-year pilot project in Northland which saw three organisations collaborating so that four programmes ran throughout the community, from pre-school right through to a parenting programme, and the results were excellent. It has prompted FYD to invest in the sequencing of our own school-based programmes in areas of most need.”

FYD’s Community Development Strategy (CDS) has now commenced in Mataura and Huntly, and plans for Manurewa are now underway.

“It requires long-term planning and financing, but we see it as a worthy investment in our country’s future. The sums are paltry, compared to the cost of not investing in the first place,” says Wilkinson.

FYD programmes use the great outdoors, inspirational classroom leaders and world class mentors to help kids from age 5 to 18 keep on track, develop confidence and self-belief and create goals for the future.

Programmes focus on leadership skills, building confidence, developing life skills and teambuilding to help kids discover possibility and motivation, creating a youth population with a positive outlook and eyes open to the future.

FYD’s programmes are run in 20 regions across New Zealand by licensed community trusts, together reaching over 18 000 young people every year.

ENDS

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