Kāpiti Youth Support has seen a huge spike in demand for their services post-Covid. With a 300 per cent increase in demand for primary mental health services and already being stretched in other areas, KYS chief executive officer Raechel Osborne shares how their services are being stretched and need financial support to deal with increasing numbers.

Kāpiti Youth Support (KYS) is a youth one-stop shop which provides access to a wide range of free health, social services and youth development programmes for young people aged 10 to 24 years in Kāpiti.

KYS adopts a holistic, integrated, strength based youth development approach, which supports good outcomes that create sustainable change.

With over 5400 young people currently accessing services or programmes, this is about 76 per cent of youth within Kāpiti.

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Kāpiti Youth Support chief executive officer Raechel Osborne.
Kāpiti Youth Support chief executive officer Raechel Osborne.

Services and programmes offered at KYS include medical and nursing, psychology, counselling, alcohol and drug, social work, mentoring, parenting, peer support, financial capability, LGBTQIA+, Youth Services that includes support for young people who are not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), and various youth development programmes within schools and the wider community.

Staff are passionate about providing services and programmes which truly make a difference however Covid-19 has stretched their resources.

Over the Covid-19 lockdown and since, KYS has continued to provide essential primary, mental health and social services to vulnerable young people and their whānau.

This placed more pressure on an already overstretched local community service, not only financially but also on the health and wellbeing of staff.

Under Covid-19 KYS stepped up and adapted our services to be responsive to the needs of the young people, many of whom were experiencing heightened anxiety.

KYS staff continued to find ways to be responsive, resourceful and innovative in their approach.

Staff found creative ways to connect with young people through creating online resources and fun activities that had wide reach and engagement on social media platforms.

Feedback from families and whānau was that they appreciated the adaptability, creativity and lack of barriers in staying connected with young people over Covid-19.

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Since Covid-19 we are seeing significant increases in demand, particularly for primary health and mental health needs which we are under-resourced to cope with.

There has been an over 300 per cent increase in demand for primary mental health services since Covid-19.

While there has been a commitment from central government to increase mental health funding, the reality for KYS is this funding is not reaching us.

The Government pre-Covid-19 had identified young people as being at high risk with mental health and we are seeing further escalation of this following Covid-19.

It would therefore be prudent for Government to invest in services where young people are engaging.

These facts raise the issue of ongoing sustainability, particularly through lack of resource, for KYS' primary health and mental health services.

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Another serious issue that continues to be unaddressed is the high number of young people in our communities who are now living on the streets, in cars and in short term, unsafe and inappropriate accommodation.

When young people are homeless they are at more risk of violence, sexual assault and other forms of exploitation.

Alarmingly, we are also seeing increasing numbers of young parents with babies in these situations.

We need urgent and immediate access to safe, supported and stable emergency and transitional housing for the most vulnerable and often overlooked young people in the Kapiti community, for whom safe housing options have been ignored.

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