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Youth Justice Demerit Points Bill Fails Young People

Lifewise wishes to acknowledge their support of the petition being delivered to the Social Services and Community Committee against the Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill.

The petition states that the Amendment Bill fails to understand or acknowledge the driving factors behind youth offending, or respond to the complex and layered challenges facing our rangatahi. The Bill proposes a Youth Justice Demerit Point System believing this will put an end to the existing situation of perpetual reoffending by youth without consequences.

According to Lifewise Youth Leader, Aaron Hendry, the Bill demonstrates a lack of understanding of the drivers behind youth offending, and the sort of interventions needed to support rangatahi to thrive.

“In our work supporting rangatahi and whanau, we see a different reality whereby a large proportion of rangatahi who end up reoffending are often victims of abuse, with a history of poverty, mental illness, housing instability, intellectual disability, and severe trauma. They are also predominantly Māori, facing regular and constant discrimination,” says Hendry.

Lifewise’s Youth Housing service provides safe housing and support for youth who don’t have a safe or stable place to live, preparing rangatahi for adulthood. This service is for 16-24-year-olds who either are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless or have a serious housing need. The service encourages self-sufficiency by using the positive youth development approach. Resident youths receive opportunities to exercise leadership, build key skills and get involved in their communities.

The Youth Justice Demerit Points Bill proposes a system of demerit points to characterise young people which Hendry points out is also out of step with the Government's own Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa (YDSA).

“The YDSA commits the Government to thinking about, and walking alongside young people, using a Strength Based approach. It outlines that any additional support designed for young people 'needs to be consistent with the youth development approach - that is, it needs to avoid defining the young person as 'the problem'," says Hendry.

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