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Kick Back: Youth Organizations Fears Sanctions Will Increase Risks For Homeless Youth

Youth Development Organisation, Kick Back, is concerned that the Government's approach to young people in need of financial support will increase hardship for young people and result in greater risks for those experiencing homelessness.

"We are particularly concerned about our young people who are currently experiencing homelessness. What these young people are going through is already traumatic, they are living impossibly difficult lives and are often just trying to survive day by day. We fear that coming down harder on these young people, while they are already so vulnerable, will drive them further away from the support and services they need." says, Aaron Hendry, rangatahi advocate and Kick Back Director

Kick Back is concerned that the approach to welfare, outlined by the Government, reveals a lack of understanding of the needs of young people who require welfare support.

Young people on the benefit have often experienced trauma, are dealing with poverty, mental illness, addiction, and lack much needed community and parental support.

More pressure and tougher sanctions risk pushing already vulnerable young people further away from the support they need, increasing the risks of homelessness, suicide, and leading to further marginalization and desperation and for some pushing them towards crime and addiction as they search for a way to survive.

Kick Back calls on the Government to listen to the voices of young people with lived experience of homelessness and the welfare system.

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"[This approach] will result in more crime, more chaos, more drug abuse, more people needing to survive." Shared Ben, a member of Kick Back's Rangatahi Rōpū (a Rōpū made up of young people with lived experience of homelessness) and a young person with lived experience of both homelessness and the welfare system. "Tougher sanctions will punish young people but will not be effective in the long run."

Another of Kick Back's young leaders, Hārema, shared that he is concerned about the impact a tougher approach will have on the mental health of young people he knows. "When you're already struggling, experiencing homelessness, have little family support, and then add more weight to that, the result is a person's mental health breaking down. [These Government systems] have a lack of understanding around mental health."

Kick Back is concerned that sanctions are a blunt instrument trying to solve a complex set of problems.

"It's not that simple, young people are facing mental health issues, disabilities, homelessness," shared Aaliyah reflecting on her own experiences and those of her friends. "We need to listen to our young people."

Young people accessing welfare require love, not punishment. They require safe housing, good food, access to physical and mental health support, community, and access to opportunities.

"Supporting young people who don't have family support, providing the resources they need so they can survive, that’s one of the most important things a society can do with their money." Shared Ben.

"Kick Back shares the Government's stated goal of empowering young people to live their best lives.”, shared Hendry. “However, we fear the Government's current rhetoric and approach fails to understand the complex challenges our young people are facing. We can't simply come down on these young people, demanding personal responsibility of young people who have already been made highly vulnerable by our society, and as a result are suffering due to homelessness, poverty and mental illness, while at the same time ignoring our collective responsibility to care for, love, and support these kids.

If we do, we risk causing greater suffering and pushing our young people further to the margins. And to be honest, these kids are already pretty far out there, there's only so far you can push before they fall off the other side."

Punishment cannot address the complex challenges these young people are facing. Only love can do that.

If we are serious about supporting young people to thrive, we must get serious about providing our young people with the basics every human being needs to thrive.

"Put simply, we need to put love back into the base of our politics. Our kids don't need sanctions, they need love, a safe place to live, community, and confidence that they will be able to afford to eat tomorrow, and access to the right support so they can heal and thrive."

Kick Back calls on the Government to reevaluate and reconsider their current approach and rhetoric around sanctions and the welfare system. Kick Back invites the Government to listen to the voices of young people with lived experience of homelessness and the welfare system and allow that knowledge to inform their approach going forward.

Kick Back is a Youth Development Organization focused on responding to Youth Homelessness and kicking back against the idea that any young person is too at-risk to love. Kick Back believes that all young people are worthy of love, support, and care, and provided with manaakitanga, aroha and loving and supportive community, rangatahi will thrive.

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