• Roger Sowry
Social Welfare

Approval to build a securely designed youth justice centre in Palmerston North signals the first major step forward to implement the Government's Residential Services Strategy for children and young people, says Minister of Social Welfare, Hon Roger Sowry.

The Minister was commenting on his department gaining approval today to build a specially designed youth justice centre for the Lower North Island in Palmerston North.

"Once built, it will replace the youth justice centre at the Epuni Residential Centre in Lower Hutt, enabling Epuni to focus solely on children and young people who need care and protection.

"The aim of our Residential Services Strategy is to provide more places and to separate the care of vulnerable children and young people from those who may have committed offences, by the year 2005 and today's announcement brings our vision a step closer.

"The Palmerston North centre will be a purpose-built facility for up to 30 young people aged 14 to under 17 years, who have been charged with offences and are either on remand awaiting a court hearing, or who are undergoing a sentence of supervision with residence imposed by a court.

"It will boost the number of places available in the lower North Island by 10 and greatly reduce the incidence of youths being kept in police cells because of the current shortage of places in social welfare residences.

"The new facility is not a youth prison and will not hold young people convicted of very serious offences.

"The centre will have alarm systems, secure perimeter fencing and strict management plans to prevent young people absconding.

"Department officials will be available to meet with residents in the Palmerston North area over the next few days to answer any questions they have," says Mr Sowry.