Breaking the gang-life cycle in the Bay

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The Bay of Plenty is one of two regions where a new social development programme will be launched aimed at supporting the families of gang members.

Today Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced the programmes, which would see the ministry partner with local social services to help the partners and children of gang members to lead successful lives and steer young people away from gang life.

"Gang life ruins families, and the social cost through domestic violence and child abuse is unacceptable," Mrs Tolley said.

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

The announcement coincides with the release of a report which estimated that the long-term cost to the taxpayer of gang members and their children through their contact with MSD and CYF is $714 million.

Mrs Tolley said that the initiative, called Gang Action Plan's Start at Home, will try to break intergenerational gang life and welfare dependence.

"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."

She said the pilot programmes would 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," Mrs Tolley said.

"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 release today examined 3,960 patched and prospect gang members known to police in July 2014.

It found that 92 per cent have received a main benefit and have been paid an estimated $535 million in welfare assistance.

At least 6,000 to 7,000 children were estimated to have a gang member parent and 27 per cent of gang members were recorded by CYF as the alleged perpetrators of abuse or neglect of children.

"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."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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