Reducing the harm and cost of gang life

  • Anne Tolley
Social Development

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has announced two community pilot programmes aimed at supporting the partners and children of gang members to lead successful lives, and to help steer young people away from gang life.

The announcement comes on the same day as the release of a report which estimates that the long-term cost to the taxpayer of gang members and their children through their contact with MSD and CYF is $714 million.

“Gang life ruins families, and the social cost through domestic violence and child abuse is unacceptable,” says Mrs Tolley.

“At the same time, the taxpayer is having to foot a massive bill, through benefit payments and child protection.

“As part of the Gang Action Plan’s Start at Home initiative, we want to break intergenerational gang life and welfare dependence, and reduce the harm caused to their families.

“To do that we need to test different ways of providing social support and assistance in gang-connected communities, which will include monitoring and an evaluation of the results.”

The first two pilot programmes, in the Bay of Plenty and on the East Coast, will see MSD partnering with local social service providers to:

  •        Deliver wrap-around intensive support services
  •        Increase educational achievement and employment opportunities for gang-connected families, and
  •        Focus on youth mentoring and positive role modelling

Total funding for the two trials is $1.1 million over two and a half years, with more initiatives in other regions to follow soon.

“We want the very best for these families, and especially for their children,” says Mrs Tolley.

“And with the long-term cost to MSD estimated at over $700 million, not including the cost to the justice sector or the social harm caused to communities, it’s important we focus on prevention.”

The report released today by MSD examined 3,960 patched and prospect gang members known to the Police in July 2014, and found that:

  •        92 per cent have received a main benefit
  •        They have been paid an estimated $525 million in welfare assistance, on average $132,000 per person
  •        At least 6,000 to 7,000 children are estimated to have a gang member parent
  •        27 per cent of gang members were recorded by CYF as the alleged perpetrators of abuse or neglect of children
  •        5,890 children of gang members are known to CYF and 60 per cent of these children have been abused or neglected.
  •        23 per cent of the children of gang members known to CYF aged 10 and over had youth justice involvement.

The full report is available at:

“The MSD report, while not totally comprehensive, gives a valuable picture of the task facing us and was supported by information from Police.

“The new Gang Intelligence Centre, involving Police, MSD and other government agencies, will give us more detailed information to help address the issues.

“By the middle of the year, MSD will use this enhanced information to build its knowledge of gang-connected families. It will then adopt a stronger compliance approach with those parents who persistently fail to meet their social obligations of ensuring their children are accessing health and education services.

“To further support people to escape gang life, the recently announced 3K to Work initiative includes gang affiliates in its criteria for relocation. A discretionary grant of $3000 is available for high risk Work and Income clients who are moving to another area to take up an offer of employment.”