Plan to engage with disengaged youth

Ministry of Social Development South Dunedin trial manager Mary-Ann McKibben says  a social...
Ministry of Social Development South Dunedin trial manager Mary-Ann McKibben says a social services hub for youth in South Dunedin is on the cards. Photo by Jonathan Chilton-Towle.
The South Dunedin Social Sector Trial action plan is out. Star reporter Jonathan Chilton-Towle spoke to people involved in the trial about measures planned to improve the outcomes for at-risk South Dunedin youth.

South Dunedin might soon be getting a youth employment centre.

Social Sector Trial manager Mary-Ann McKibben said the planned centre would be a place in South Dunedin where youth could go to access all available employment and social support in a less formal setting.

''It's a way of engaging with a disengaged group,'' she said.

The hub would need support and funding from the Ministry of Social Development to go ahead and a decision on the feasibility of the project was due next month, she said.

Establishing a hub is one of several measures laid out in the South Dunedin Youth Action Plan, which was released this week.

Work and Income southern regional commissioner John Allen said, on average, 550 people aged between 18 and 24 were out of work in Dunedin at any one time.

This had showed no sign of dropping in recent years, which showed the community was complacent and the paradigm needed to change.

''We need the Dunedin community to say it does not accept that a young person can leave school and go on a benefit.''

The idea for the youth hub had come out of a recent meeting with Mayor Dave Cull and other community stakeholders and had a lot of support, Mr Allen said.

Mr Cull said unemployment was one of the biggest issues facing youth and tackling youth unemployment had to be done by the whole community.

If the youth hub could help bring together services and co-ordinate social support for Dunedin youth, then it would be a good thing, he said.

A business case would need to be made for the hub, Mr Allen said. However, he did not believe money would be a barrier.

The most important thing would be for the community to show it could work together. South Dunedin has about 2700 school-aged children.

Work and Income is engaged with 48 youths aged 16-18 in the trial area.

In the NZDep2006 deprivation index, South Dunedin scored 10, putting it in the poorest 10% of areas in New Zealand.

Between June 2012 and May 2013, 229 offences were committed in South Dunedin by 137 youth offenders. Of these offences, 55% were committed by 34 people.

According to Southern District Health Board figures,

9.6% of young people aged 16 to 24 in its area (4608 people) had some kind of substance-abuse disorder.

The goals of the trial are to increase youth participation in education, training and employment, reduce youth offending, reduce alcohol and drug use, and increase collaboration, communication and co-ordination between relevant agencies.

Other community-led measures discussed in the plan included establishing a ''Moving Forward'' programme based on Balclutha's successful ''Ready Steady Work'' programme, creating more low-cost activities for youth, improving drug and alcohol education, and re-invigorating the Maori Warden scheme and Youth Offending Team.


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