Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Govt eyes live-in mentors to help welfare teens

Paula Bennett. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Paula Bennett. Photo / Michael Cunningham

The Government is looking at putting some teenagers who are already supported by welfare benefits into a flatting situation with a live-in mentor to prevent them going off the rails.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said there were eight potential flatting sites around the country in Auckland, Hamilton, Tokoroa, Whakatane, Christchurch and Invercargill.

The plan is a variation on a managed support regime for young beneficiaries introduced last year as part of welfare reforms.

"We pay their bills like rent or board direct already and this could be directed to a supported flat situation, which could help pay for a live-in mentor," said Ms Bennett.

"It makes sense to link housing and youth employment to eliminate the chaos that teenagers sometimes experience living independently without help."

The independent youth benefit, domestic purposes benefits and accommodations supplements previously paid to 16- and 17-year-old beneficiaries and teen parents are no longer paid to them directly.

The benefits and allowances are paid to a youth service provider who pays their rent and utilities and helps them to budget.

Payments are made this way to support about 3000 teenagers. They have to be in education, training or work-based learning as well as taking budgeting and/or parenting courses.

Ms Bennett said many teenagers living away from home faced real challenges and lacked the support they needed to thrive.

Youth service providers were now doing a great job of supporting them and helping them to manage accommodation costs and issues, she said.

"Some providers would welcome a supported flatting option for their youth to ensure they've living safely in a supportive learning environment."

Mrs Bennett said she has asked her non-government organisation advisory group to work on the development of a flexible model for supported flats.

She had been advised some providers were very willing to do it and youth workers see this as part of their mission.

"We're currently looking at a range of options - and not taking a cookie-cutter approach means it could look different across the country to suit need," she said.

- NZ Herald

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