Government takes action to bring down youth crime
- Successful youth engagement and employment programmes to be extended to thousands more young people
- All children aged under 14 in Counties Manukau and West Auckland who are caught doing a ram raid will be referred to the cross agency Social Wellbeing Board to intervene with wraparound support
- Youth Guarantee Programme extended to support up to 1,100 more participants
- He Poutama Rangatahi extended to support around 1,400 more rangatahi
- Ākonga Fund extended to the end of 2023 to support up to 2,750 additional young people and their whānau
- 232 families with children set to benefit from the scaling up of the family functional therapy, intensive mentoring and community led youth inclusion programmes
The Government has announced a ‘Better Pathways’ package that aims to place more young people in education, training or work to drive down youth crime.
“Youth crime is clearly an issue right now, particularly in Auckland. In response to this the Government is investing heavily in programmes that create opportunities for young people to break the cycle of crime,” Education and Police Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“While youth crime is down on a decade ago, we’re seeing a spike of young people, even children, putting themselves and others in harm’s way through high-risk activities such as ram-raiding and smashing shops and we want that to stop.”
Punishing young people through the criminal justice system more often than not sets them up for a life of adult crime. Insights from the Social Wellbeing Agency show that preventing youth crime is important to preventing gang membership for young people. Based on 2000 young people in their early 20s who are currently on Corrections’ gang member list, they found that 100% of the cohort had contact with the Police and were reported as offenders one or more times across their lives.
“Instead, we’re ramping up our investment in young people to create even more opportunities for them to earn and learn,” Chris Hipkins said.
“We want to provide every young New Zealander with the chance to succeed. To do that we’ve identified youth focused programmes that are working already out in the community, and investing heavily to scale them up.
“This package will help address complex and longer-term youth engagement issues that have been made more challenging by COVID-19. Frequent disruption has prevented some children and young people from accessing an education, while others are still struggling with the impacts of the pandemic on them and their families.
“Extending the Ākonga fund is an obvious step we can take. 2,663 young people have exited an Ākonga Fund programme and achieved an education, training or employment outcome and this extension will give an additional 2,750 young people the opportunity to get back on the right track.
“We’ve recently announced our funded plan to improve school attendance, and today’s package builds on that by including more localised support to keep young people in school.
“Part of this package is designed to help keep young people out of the justice system where Police and partner agencies believe this approach is warranted. But I want to be clear, young offenders committing serious crimes will continue to be dealt with seriously. This is about a second chance for those that merit it; it’s not a free pass,” Chris Hipkins said.
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the South Auckland Social Wellbeing Board’s ‘Kotahi te Whakaaro’ approach is already paying dividends and so is pleased to announce it is extending to West Auckland.
“Over the past four months all children under the age of 14 who were apprehended as a result of a fleeing driver or ram raid or other serious offending in Counties Manukau have been referred to the board who can provide wrap-around support and refer them on to other programmes in order to steer them away from crime. As a result three quarters have not reoffended,” Carmel Sepuloni said.
“The success of this initiative in South Auckland is why we are extending it into West Auckland where a cross-agency team involving government agencies like MSD, Police and Oranga Tamariki, as well as local NGOs, respond directly to the needs of the children and young people who have offended.“
“Through this approach they are tackling family harm and violence in the home, working with schools on responses to psychological distress and trauma experienced by children, and embedding engagement with iwi into their mahi.”
The package also sees an extension to He Poutama Rangatahi, another employment, education and training programme that has proven to work.
“Ensuring our children and young people have access to pathways into employment, education and training remains a priority for our Government. This extends to those who may need a little bit more support to get back on the right track, and He Poutama Rangatahi has proven to be a successful programme that breaks down barriers to work for some of our hardest to reach young people,” Carmel Sepuloni said.
“Having supported over 3,500 people already, He Poutama Rangatahi will continue to have a critical role to play in working with young people at risk of participating, or already participating, in youth crime, and on reducing involvement with gangs,”
“We have chosen to back solutions and build on what is working for young people right now. It means we can tackle youth crime by getting those who have already offended or are at risk of offending the support they need, while also ensuring these successful approaches are embedded in the way Government does things in the long term, so we can make changes for the better,” Carmel Sepuloni said.