A Kaitaia-based Ministry of Education psychologist said Northland children are missing out on the help they need because of a lack of resources, which could lead to more serious problems.
Geoffrey Marchant, who has worked as a psychologist for 20 years, said he was one of 12 ministry psychologists in Te Tai Tokerau, but more learning support specialists were needed, as some children were missing out.
"The consequence of not providing support is that young people are going on to more serious psychological problems — perhaps criminality, poor health and wider negative societal impact — so there's really no financial merit in limiting the socially appropriate support that students might require," he said.
He worked in 11 schools in the Far North and had 45 active cases, some in more of an advice and guidance role, but 15 or 20 were more demanding.
Those numbers had grown significantly over the years.
"There's an increasing need, and this is due to a general population increase, the dissolution of wider family support for children, a lot of younger parents, some gang culture, neo-liberal policies that have tended to increase inequality, and a wider range of deprivation across some sections of the community.
"All this is creating a need for extra support for many students," he said.
He saw a range of children, including those with autism spectrum disorder, foetal alcohol syndrome, Down syndrome, learning difficulties, and victims of abuse.
"It's about ensuring a young person can achieve an appropriate level of independence given their issues, and they need support to do that. Otherwise it's not cost-effective," Mr Marchant added.
Learning support workers need better pay to attract people to the field, and more resources.
The starting salary was a little under $50,000, rising to a top range of around $80,000.
"Our relativity to the median wage has reduced hugely, and when individuals think about what their career might be, and they're going to go to university for seven years, that's a big factor in determining where they go," he said.
"I've been 20 years a psychologist, only 10 years with the ministry. Prior to that I was a consulting psychologist working privately. The hourly rate was significantly higher than what the ministry pays."