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Ara Taiohi calls for investment in young people.

Ara Taiohi, peak body for youth development, calls for investment in young people.

As news of further funding cuts and the closure of key organisations in South Auckland breaks, Ara Taiohi, the peak body for youth development, calls for investment in young people. “We believe that the correct response to violence and mental distress in communities is to invest in young people through youth development services, education and health services,” says Anya Satyanand, Executive Officer at Ara Taiohi.

“Across the country, organisations working with our 12-24 year olds are chronically underfunded. People are stretched.” Satyanand, an ex-deputy principal of a large secondary school, argues that schools, health services and youth development organisations are attempting to support young people experiencing unprecedented levels of mental illness and distress, high levels of social deprivation and limited prospects in terms of employment. “There’s a sense of hopelessness that is really worrying, especially as our young people need youth development programmes and services, awesome teachers, and accessible health services now more than ever.”

News of the 3 million dollars that has been withdrawn from youth crime prevention programmes in South Auckland, resulting in the cancellation of 8 contracts for gang prevention and associated services is a blow to the whole country, according to Satyanand. “The quality of this kind of work in South Auckland is innovative and world leading. People who live and work in the communities, who know the young people and understand the complexity of the context they’re growing into, are exactly who needs to be involved in the response to issues like the spate of violence against dairy owners. Instead of paying for panic alarms and smoke cannons, we need to invest in people who are able to build relationships of care. Youth workers know that what is needed to overcome challenges of this kind is a sense of belonging across our communities that actively includes young people.”

Mental health services for young people, and health services more generally, are also struggling to support young people to overcome significant challenges in the face of unprecedented need. Christchurch in particular has young people who are experiencing the ongoing effects from the earthquakes, and services are not being funded at a level that ensures access to the kind of support they need, according to Dr Sue Bagshaw from the Korowai Youth Wellbeing Trust.

The budget provided little hope for those working with young people. There was no focus on investment in young people. Over the next 4 years, almost twice as much new capital expenditure is going into roading ($9.17 billion) as into education ($4.85 billion). New health spending ($2.39 billion) is ahead of new expenditure in defence ($2.21 billion), but only by a whisker. Appropriations indicate that the Ministry of Youth Development will shift even further away from positive youth development with a strong new focus on leadership and mentoring in enterprise and financial capability.

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