National’s Youth Plan

John Key has announced more details in his speech of National’s Youth Plan to get all young people in education, training or work – and to reduce youth crime. It includes:

  • A universal education entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds which will include non-school courses at a polytechnic, wananga, or private training establishment. This is to target the 8,400 16 and 17 year olds not in work, education or training.
  • Teenage parents will be able to do programmes incorporating childcare and parenting advice
  • give the Youth Court instead of the Fanily Court the power to deal with 12- and 13-year-olds accused of serious offences such as aggravated robbery and home invasions..
  • give the Youth Court the power to impose parenting orders (on parents of course), mentoring programmes (such as Project K) and drug & alcohol rehabilitation programmes (80% of youth offenders have drug or alcohol problems)
  • Extend maximum residential sentences for serious crimes committed by youth from three to six months (Government has said will do also, but not yet implemented)
  • Introduce a 12 month intensive “fresh start” programme which includes three months residential, building on the Limited Service Volunteers scheme whose numbers have reduced from, despite 70% going onto FT employment.
  • Allow electronic monitoring through ankle braclets for youth criminals who do not comply with orders

There’s a lot of detailed references and citations in the notes accompanying the policy. The Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft, is referenced as estimating there is a group of about 1,000 young persistent offenders.  Key notes that for many the current youth justice system is working well, but he wants to tackle the really hard case, or in other words the “under-class”.

I like several things about this policy:

  1. It is not trying to pretend there is a silver bullet which will cure youth crime.  It takes a serious approach acknowledging one has to make lots of changes to real make headway with those hard cases
  2. It uses a mixture in “stick” and “carrot”. It is rare for one to work without the other.  Basically it is saying do as much as possible to help the at risk youth who can be helped, but also have more powers available to deal with the real hard-core.
  3. It’s a worthwhile investment.  The cost is estimated at $100 million a year.  That is a lot of money. But while there are many things I do not want my taxes spent on (giving money to people who earn $130,000 just because they have a few kids), I am very happy to have taxes spend on making sure no one under 18 is not in work, training or education.  And if it can reduce the number and severity of youth criminal offending, that will have very real benefits down the track.
  4. It isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but seems to be based on a lot of consultation and research with groups working in this area. That does not mean it will be universally popular or praised, but does suggest the issues for and against a particular policy have been well considered.

So it’s a good forward looking policy, aiming to make NZ better.  The election should be about a contest of policy primarily, so good to see National make a good first offering for the year.

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