One-stop aid for at-risk youth

By Mikaela Collins

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A new interagency initiative which aims to help at-risk young people in Northland was launched by Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / John Stone
A new interagency initiative which aims to help at-risk young people in Northland was launched by Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / John Stone

A new initiative which will see social agencies and iwi band together to help at-risk children in Northland has been launched.

Kainga Ora, which aims to have a positive impact on young Northlanders aged up to 24 by bringing together government agencies, non-government organisations, iwi and community leaders, was announced by Education Minister Hekia Parata on Friday.

"With Kainga Ora we have an opportunity to improve outcomes for the children, young people and families of Northland," said Ms Parata, who is the lead minister for the initiative.

Those at risk of poor long-term outcomes - such as receiving a benefit for five years or more, receiving a custodial or community sentence, or low educational achievement - spent a long time on a benefit as a child, or were stood down from school and referred to youth justice. This included children and young people who were notified to Child, Youth and Family as a child.

"The Northland region has been identified as an area with a high proportion of its younger population at risk of poor outcomes - about 12 per cent," said Ms Parata.

The Social Wellbeing Governance Group, which was formed in 2013 to respond to the challenges facing vulnerable children, young people and families, will oversee Kainga Ora.

The group will partner with communities in Northland to develop action plans in Otangarei, Kaikohe and Kaitaia, that will shift at-risk patterns and behaviour by:

• providing a community-led response to at-risk children and young people, ensuring a single plan per child;
• supporting local community responses to at-risk population groups, including using resources, processes and support already present locally;
• expanding this integrated way of working into everyday practices with local government agencies;
• developing profiles of communities and establishing baseline measures to support social investment decision-making and an evaluation work programme.

In its first year, Kainga Ora is expected to deliver integrated services to 570 children, young people and their whanau.

"To make changes that will work in this region, we need input, ideas and support from our communities. And we need a focus on real results for these young people," said Ms Parata.

Through Kainga Ora, the Social Wellbeing Governance Group now had more resources to build on initiatives that strengthened at-risk communities, a spokeswoman for Ms Parata said.

- Northern Advocate

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