5 Sep 2023

Watch: Kelvin Davis launches youth intervention programme for recidivist offenders

4:00 pm on 5 September 2023

Children's Minister Kelvin Davis is announcing the launch of a youth intervention programme at Te Mahurehure Marae at Point Chevalier in Auckland.

Davis said the new programme had been created for a small group of young recidivist offenders to break the cycle of offending.

It would see up to 60 recidivist young offenders and their families assigned an intensive support social worker to develop an immediate plan for the young person and provide ongoing support, the government said in a statement.

The plan will be tailored to the needs of each child and family and could include mentoring, alcohol/drug treatment, support to navigate and access the housing and education systems, mental health support, and cultural support, accoreding to the government.

"Our young people are taonga which is why it's so crucial that we do work together to support and get back on track those who are heading in the wrong direction," Davis said.

"This joint agency approach we are pivoting towards and investing in, is working. It can no longer be left up to just one group or one agency to solve on its own, it is all too important.

"We need to champion the connections and direction from our community partners on the ground to make this happen alongside the combined efforts of our colleagues across government."

Youth crime had been trending down for a number of years but communities were concerned about the recent spike, Davis said.

"We must respond to that. There does need to be consequences for this behaviour and the government is committed to reducing youth offending and its impact."

"All stick and no carrot" was not what young people needed, he said.

Young people who ended up in such situations often come from backgrounds where there was violence, poverty, drugs, alcohol, he said. They were often intergenerational issues and could be almost impossible to escape without the right support, Davis said.

Getting the right support could be a challenge, he said.

This was the government set up the fast track initiative last year - designed to provide tamariki aged 10-13 with wrap around support which begins with police referring young people to Oranga Tamariki within 24 hours of offending.

Within 48 hours, agencies and community organisations come together to create a plan with whānau to get help and support they need.

"The best part about this is it's working. The programme is now up and running in south and west Auckland, Auckland central, Hamilton and Christchurch, with further locations starting up soon."

Since its launch, 230 children had been involved and 78 percent had not reoffended, he said.

"Despite this, there has been a very small core of young people who are committing a significant amount of crime and for whom the the fast track programme has not been enough."

An even more intensive, enhanced fast track programme was now being launched, he said.

"This will still include an immediate plan to provide support and reduce offending behaviour but the key difference here will be the intensity and the length of the support. It will see that intensive social work, backed by a local coordination team and the community or support needed by the tamariki and their whānau will be provided."

It is the latest in a series of announcements the government has made targeting youth offending.

In July, the government announced a new criminal offence targeting ram-raiding and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said there had been an increase in retail crime over the past few year.

At that time, Hipkins acknowledged that many young people involved in that type of offending were young, including children as young as 12 and 13.

On 18 July, Hipkins and Davis announced the government would start work towards building two new youth justice units that would cater to up to 30 higher-needs youth. They would predominantly cater to older teenagers and would be designed with the best possible rehabilitation models in mind, Hipkins said.

The day before that on 17 July, the government announced a tranche of changes to crack down on crime - many focused around youth. That included the so-called 'social media amendment' which would make adults encouraging young people to offend and posting offending behaviour online aggravating factors in sentencing.

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