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To: The Social Services and Community Committee

Youth Justice Demerit Points Bill Fails Young People: Ask the Select Committee to reject it!

Youth Justice Demerit Points Bill Fails Young People: Ask the Select Committee to reject it!

We ask that you reject the Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill.

This petition will be delivered to the Social Services and Community Committee as a joint submission against the Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill

Why is this important?

To the Social Services and Community Committee

We ask that you reject the Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill.

This Bill, though well intentioned, fails to understand and respond to the complex and layered challenges facing our rangatahi.

At the heart of this bill lies a lack of understanding of the drivers behind youth offending, and the sort of interventions needed to support rangatahi to thrive.

According to the Youth Offenders summary report in 2019, of those referred to a FGC, 94% of kids 11-13, and 81% of young people aged 14-17 had been the subject of a report of concern to Oranga Tamariki relating to their care and protection. This data highlighted "that young people who offend often have complex problems, which can be among the underlying causes of their offending."

If you speak with Youth Development Workers, or Social Workers supporting these rangatahi and whanau, they will testify to the reality that a large proportion of rangatahi who end up reoffending are often victims of abuse, with a history of poverty, mental illness, housing instability, intellectual disability, and severe trauma. They are also predominantly Maori, facing regular, and constant discrimination.

The Youth Justice Demerit Points bill fails to provide an answer to these very real and significant issues that lie at the root of youth offending.

Another failure of the Bill is its assumption that our inability to support rangatahi early enough is a failure of identification. However, if you once again were to speak to Youth Development Workers, Social Workers, and other community workers who are serving and supporting our whānau and rangatahi, they will tell you that identifying rangatahi at risk of reoffending is not the problem. Our communities know who these young people are. The issue lies in the lack of resources and supports available for young people within our community.

The idea of using demerit points to characterise young people, is also out of step with the Government's own Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa (YDSA). The YDSA commits the Government to thinking about, and walking alongside young people utilizing a Strength Based approach. The YDSA outlines that any additional support designed for young people "needs to be consistent with the youth development approach - that is, it needs to avoid defining the young person as 'the problem'."

The Youth Justice Demerit Points Bill is out of step with the YDSA. It fails to approach our young people in a strength based manner, and it contributes to further stigmatizing and marginalizing young people.

We are also concerned about the negative impact labeling our young people with Demerit Points will have on their overall mental and emotional well-being.

Instead of passing a bill that will have very little direct impact on reducing the risk of a young person re-offending, we ask that Parliament turns its focus to:

★ Reviewing the Family Group Conferences (FGC) system: Audit the FGC system and provide the necessary resource and support needed to ensure that it is functioning in a manner consistent with the principals of Restorative Justice and Youth Development.

★ Focus on Early Intervention: Provide local communities with resourced and dedicated support so that they can meet the needs of the young people in their communities who are struggling and at-risk.

★ Develop a Strategy to address the Youth Homelessness crisis: We know that when young people experience homelessness they are more likely to offend as a matter of survival. A Youth Specific Homelessness Strategy would address the factors that lie at the root of youth offending. Child poverty, mental illness, disability, unstable and inadequate housing, trauma, discrimination and racism are all factors that would be addressed. Young people living in stable housing, with their mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being taken care of, are less likely to become involved in the Youth Justice System.

★ Provide each young person entering the Justice System with a trained Youth Development Worker: A service designed in consultation with the Youth Development Sector, with a specific focus on supporting rangatahi who enter the Youth Justice system, would be one way to provide early intervention to rangatahi as soon as they enter the system. If each rangatahi had a dedicated Youth Development Worker, their needs could be assessed immediately, and they would than be able to be connected to the right supports before they become entrapped within the system.

The Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Demerit Points) Amendment Bill fails to understand or acknowledge the driving factors behind youth offending, and thus it fails to adequately respond.

For this reason, the Bill should fail.

You can read more about our concerns with the Bill here: https://whenlambsaresilent.wordpress.com/2020/07/30/will-demerit-points-stop-youth-offending-a-j-hendry/

You can find the bill here: http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/member/2020/0229/latest/whole.html#LMS323852

Updates

2020-09-07 21:26:28 +1200

50 signatures reached

2020-08-31 22:44:01 +1200

25 signatures reached

2020-08-31 13:05:56 +1200

10 signatures reached