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Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye has launched a Member’s Bill to ensure that the Youth Court has greater access to education officers to help reduce the risk of reoffending.

“We know that getting qualifications reduces the risk of a young person reoffending and that education officers therefore have a big part to play in steering young offenders away from crime,” Ms Kaye says.

“While there are education officers at some of the Youth Court locations, they are not universally available. The Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Education Officers) Amendment Bill will strengthen the role of education officers and provide access to these officers in all Youth Court locations.

“This bill is about giving the Youth Court access to a young person’s educational status, addressing the young person’s educational needs, better supporting the young person’s family where needed and assisting the young person to re-engage in education or training.

“It enables education officers to attend family group conferences and provide education reports to the conferences.

“It also requires the Secretary of Education to sufficiently resource the Youth Court with officers and empowers the Secretary to provide financial assistance to give effect to education aspects of decisions and recommendations of family group conferences.

“Data shows that in 2015, more than two-thirds of offenders in Youth Court had prior involvement with Child, Youth and Family. And of all young people who had experienced CYF care, 80 per cent had left school with only NCEA Level One or less.

“This indicates that many of those going through the Youth Court have almost no qualifications. Despite this, only a small number of education orders are made by judges which may be because they don’t have all the information on a young person’s education status or there isn’t the resource to support the young person to get reengaged in education.

“It’s well known that a large number of people in our prisons lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. While it’s important to invest in education programmes in prisons, this bill is about helping to ensure young offenders never make it to prison.

“I have spoken to lawyers and others working on the frontline with young offenders who support this bill. They know the importance of greater education resource and support for these young people.

“This bill puts education outcomes of young people at the heart of our youth justice system.”

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