National is seeking Government support for a law change that would see benefits cut to offenders who don’t comply with court-ordered community service, MP Brett Hudson says.
Mr Hudson currently has a Private Member’s Bill in front of the Social Services and Community Select Committee that seeks to provide the Department of Corrections with the option to request an offender on community service have their benefit reduced for non-compliance.
“We’re very surprised NZ First isn’t backing this Bill,” Mr Hudson says.
“New Zealanders expect people to comply with their sentences and it’s right that they would expect Parliament to support that.
“It’s disappointing that Government members cannot see the benefit in having a way to respond to a person’s failure to meet those obligations other than locking them up.
“Community sentences offer opportunities to offenders other than jail time. With those opportunities come responsibilities.
National Party Social Development Spokesperson Louise Upston says the Bill offers a very simple measure to ensure offenders comply with their community sentence.
“It’s consistent with the previous National led Government approach to welfare reforms, which places social obligations on those being supported by hard working taxpayers.
“It’s effectively another tool in the toolbox for Corrections. By offering an alternative management tool, this Bill would mean not subjecting offenders to the stigma of further prosecution.
“Community sentences are an important part of the justice system, however there is an expectation from the public that those who are sentenced, they will serve their sentence,” Ms Upston says.
The Salvation Army’s annual State of the Nation Report confirms a large number of economic and social improvements created by the National Government’s stewardship, National Party spokesperson for Social Development Louise Upston says.
“The State of the Nation report publishes a number of key social indicators like jobs, incomes, housing and benefits, and it’s fantastic to see so much positive improvement in so many areas.
“Today’s report acknowledges those improvements – particularly in the areas of job creation, income growth, declining benefits and lifting children out of material deprivation.
“National’s robust economic management gave us choices to tangibly improve people’s lives.
“During our term in office we raised the minimum wage from $12 an hour in 2008 to $15.75 in 2016/17. That’s an increase of 31 per cent – more than twice the rate of inflation.
“We increased benefits for the first time in 40 years and, since 2011, reduced the number of children living in benefit-dependent households by 60,000.
“Perhaps most notably though, since 2010 we reduced the number of children living in material hardship by 135,000.
“Improvements like this show how vital it is to measure progress with the likes of our Better Public Services targets.
“They have helped lead to real improvements in everything from a 31 per cent reduction in youth crime, halving the proportion of 18-year-olds not achieving NCEA Level 2, and a gradual downward trend in reported crime.
“I call on the new Government to set aside its ideological dislike for these targets and to adopt them so the likes of the Salvation Army can continue to report on both improvements and areas that need ongoing work,” Ms Upston says.
A Bill to protect victims of crime from being contacted by their perpetrators has been submitted to the Member’s Ballot by National MP Louise Upston today.
“It’s my intention that the Corrections (Victim Protection) Amendment Bill would create an obligation on the Chief Executive and on Prison Managers to protect those who are subject to a Protection Order and victims of crime from contact from prisoners.
“Many people would assume this obligation is already in place. Yet, a recent case highlighted in the media exposed the fact a prisoner contacted his victim 93 times in order to get her to change her story,” Ms Upston says.
“Last year a paedophile wrote to his victim, now in her twenties, from prison. The woman said it made her feel ‘unsafe’ and ‘dirty’. These kinds of contacts from prisoners are unacceptable.
“If this Bill is to pass, it would relieve vulnerable victims from additional stress and trauma,” Ms Upston says.
Ms Upston says that the passage of her Bill would add to the work National did during its time in Government to support and protect victims of crime such as the creation of the Chief Victims Advisor role and the Victims of Crime Reform Bill to improve the rights and services for all victims.
Through a series of extraordinary statements in Parliament yesterday, the Minister of Social Development has dismissed the idea of setting targets to reduce poverty and welfare dependence – the exact sort of targets that are key to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ambitions to reduce child poverty.
National Spokesperson for Social Development Louise Upston says Ms Sepuloni’s comments that she wouldn’t be setting targets around poverty reduction and welfare dependence are completely at odds with the Prime Minister’s plan to set them into legislation.
“This is another complete U-turn from the coalition Government. While these sorts of ideological differences might be expected between Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens, it beggars belief to have a Labour Minister outright reject her own Prime Minister’s ideas.
“As acknowledged by the Children’s Commissioner just this week, the growth of the rate of child poverty has halted, and the number on sole parents on benefits is the lowest since 1989.
“We know this because the National Government set targets, and we measured our achievements against those targets.
“We know there is a direct connection between children growing up in benefit dependent homes and experiencing hardship.
“The new Government needs to front up and clarify whether it will set targets to further reduce benefit numbers.
“The National Government had a real focus on the things that we knew would make a difference to the quality of people’s lives. We worked hard to build a robust economy that would improve incomes, we set a Better Public Services target to reduce the number of people on benefits, and we used a Social Investment approach to focus on identifying and reducing hardship.
“As the Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni’s responsibility includes ‘alleviating poverty and hardship, and reducing long term benefit receipt’.
“I’m calling on the new Government to step up to those responsibilities and be transparent on its plans to improve the lives of children,” Ms Upston says.
An extraordinary lack of commitment from the new Minister for Children indicates the lack of clarity this new Government has around the protection of some of our most vulnerable, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“This week I questioned Tracy Martin about her views on Articles 7 and 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNROC) which confirm a child’s ability to know and be connected to their parents.
“Ms Martin responded that it is generally accepted that every child has the right to know their whakapapa.”
“I also asked whether New Zealand First will, therefore, support Labour’s plans to roll back sanctions in the social welfare system. The public deserves to know whether New Zealand First supports repealing the obligation for women applying for a sole parent benefit to name the fathers of their children.
“Ms Martin obfuscated and did not answer the question.
“This is yet more confusion from the Coalition. On one hand, Labour says mothers seeking a benefit shouldn’t have to name the father and, on the other hand, New Zealand First has confirmed it supports the UNROC to know who their father is,” Ms Upston says.
“I think the public deserves to know whether New Zealand First believes that parents should be financially responsible for their own children.
National believes Labour’s proposal to remove this obligation is a major step backwards.
“There are adequate protections in place for Mums on benefits who, for their own safety or the safety of their children, don’t wish to - or are unable to - name the father. Outside of those exemptions, hardworking Kiwis can rightly expect parents to meet their obligations and support their children without others having to pick up the tab.”
Suitable, low-risk prisoners will be eligible for earlier release if they successfully complete training and treatment plans and have a low risk of reoffending, National Party Corrections spokesperson Louise Upston says
“Rehabilitation programmes work, so we want more prisoners to complete them. They help prisoners prepare for life outside prison, give them skills to get a job, and help stop reoffending,” Ms Upston says.
“National will introduce the Positive Pathways programme to incentivise more prisoners to complete personalised rehabilitation and training programmes, improving their chances of remaining crime-free when they are released to further reduce crime and improve public safety.
“We will also invest an extra $48 million in rehabilitation and reintegration programmes over the next four years to deliver another 6000 places. That’s on top of National’s major investment in rehabilitation, which has seen the number of offenders in training or treatment programmes almost triple since 2008.
“We know these programmes work. Since 2011, we’ve reduced the number of people reoffending by 26 per cent – that’s 38,000 fewer victims of crime.”
Under Positive Pathways, prisoners whose sentences are two years or less and who successfully complete their training and treatment plan will be eligible for release 10 per cent earlier than under current settings.
Prisoners serving more than two years will get an individualised training and treatment plan from Corrections and will receive early feedback from the Parole Board on this plan to better prepare them for when they become eligible for parole. Successful completion of that programme will trigger an earlier parole hearing – early release is not guaranteed and minimum non-parole periods will remain unchanged.
Only prisoners with a low risk of reoffending will be eligible for an earlier release, and Judges will also have the discretion to exclude offenders at sentencing.
“We are not making sentences shorter. Instead prisoners can serve a greater portion of their sentence in the community, subject to appropriate monitoring. They will be subject to immediate recall to prison if they breach their conditions or reoffend,” Ms Upston says
“The requirements for early release will be set by Corrections in training and treatment plans that are tailored to each individual prisoner. In addition to industry, treatment and learning programmes, community and family-focused programmes can also be included in an individual prisoner’s plan.
“Part of the new investment in rehabilitation will also be targeted at more support for prisoners when they leave jail to stop them from returning.
“Public safety will always remain National’s bottom line – but in many cases public safety is enhanced by undertaking rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, and controlled release into the community,” Ms Upston says.
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy and Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston have welcomed the beginning of construction on a new centre to showcase the best of the primary sector in the heart of Auckland.
Mount Albert Grammar School’s farm, established in 1932, will be transformed into a centre of primary sector excellence showing urban Kiwis the best technology, innovation, practices and research in New Zealand and the world.
“The AgriFood Experience Centre will highlight the wide range of careers in the primary sector and create new connections in our biggest city,” says Mr Guy.
“The primary industries play an incredibly important role in our economy. This centre will play a big part in telling this story to younger, urban audiences.”
Ms Upston says the centre will give students a taste of careers in agrifood with a hands-on learning approach.
“The centre will help raise awareness of the wide range of different and exciting careers in the primary sector, and encourage students to consider a career in this crucial industry.”
Corrections Minister Louise Upston has welcomed nearly 60 new Corrections officers from a range of backgrounds to the frontline today.
The latest cohort, which graduated at a ceremony in Wellington, includes officers from India, South Africa, Britain, Canada and Niue.
They come from a range of backgrounds and professions including a mechanical engineer, software engineer, data analyst, farmer, nurse and a vet.
Some have also changed careers from within the wider government workforce including police officers, immigration officers and Defence Force staff.
“I am proud that Corrections is attracting such a talented and diverse workforce. These officers should be applauded for choosing a career that will be challenging, as well as rewarding,” Ms Upston says.
“Being on the frontline at Corrections means working face-to-face with offenders every day. It is crucial that the staff are able to engage positively and motivate offenders to change their lives.”
Paul Mohi of Northland Region Corrections Facility was presented with the Minister’s Excellence Award for the all-round excellence he displayed during training.
Mr Mohi, who was born in New Plymouth, served in the Royal NZ Navy, trained as a carpenter and has been a foreman for Fulton Hogan.
“Mr Mohi’s experiences and skills will serve him well as a Corrections officer. During his training, he stood out as an enthusiastic and patient professional who is keen to be a role model for Maori youth,” Ms Upston says.
Corrections Minister Louise Upston has today launched a new approach to managing women offenders which aims to successfully support them towards a crime-free life.
“The number of women in prison and being managed by Corrections in the community has increased over the last decade or so,” says Ms Upston.
“We need a fresh approach to helping women offenders stop reoffending while holding them to account for their crimes.”
Corrections manages around 750 women in prison and 6000 in the community.
In general, women commit less serious crime and pose a lower risk to the community than men. Research shows that women offenders tend to have complex histories of severe trauma, mental health issues, substance abuse, unhealthy relationships and poverty which have contributed to their offending.
“The new women’s strategy is based on Corrections’ research into what works best and international best practice.
“It acknowledges that women have different needs to men and outlines a new approach that will give women the treatment, support, counselling and skills they need to have a positive impact on themselves, their children, family and whānau, and future generations,” Ms Upston says.
Some of the initiatives for women include developing a new programme for the small group of high-risk women in prison; employing social workers and counsellors in the three women’s prisons to help improve the well-being of prisoners and work with those who have suffered trauma; and contracting to provide supported accommodation for women on electronically monitored bail.
The new approach will provide women offenders with the interventions and services that meet their needs and risks. Women will be managed in ways that acknowledge trauma and empower them to develop confidence in their ability to build a positive life. Women will be encouraged to develop healthy relationships with their children, partners and others.
“While we acknowledge that these woman are being managed by Corrections because they have committed crimes, most will be returning to their homes in the future, or already live in the community. If they can be helped to turn their life around, it benefits not just them and their family but helps make the community a safer place,” Ms Upston says.
The full strategy document is available here: http://www.corrections.govt.nz/news/latest_news/e_rere_ana_ki_te_pae_hou.html
Associate Minister of Education Louise Upston has announced a new pilot for supporting disengaged young people which will help them to stay in education longer and achieve better outcomes in life.
“The rollout of the new model for delivering learning support will provide more accessible and flexible support to young people to help them realise their full potential. We will be piloting new local responses to better meet the needs of young people at risk of not achieving in education,” Ms Upston says.
Young people aged between 13 and 16 who are alienated from mainstream schooling often end up enrolled in alternative education or activity centres.
The Ministry of Education funds schools to provide 1888 places in alternative education and 280 activity centre places across the country each year. The pilot will be carried out at five Communities of Learning to help test the model that will be made available to all schools.
Ms Upston stressed that alternative education contracts are in place until December 2018 while the pilot is underway and all young people currently in alternative education and activity centres would continue to be supported.
“Communities of Learning are ideal to test the new approaches because they have a wide variety of schooling types and some involve early learning services as well. This means we can further test the new approaches in a wider variety of settings. The presence of early learning services in many communities will allow us to further test how alternative education resources can best follow children as they move from early learning to schooling,” Ms Upston says.
“In the pilots, we will be identifying those at risk earlier in their educational pathway, connecting them with the appropriate supports, and strengthening capability to respond more quickly to the needs of students at risk of disengaging. We will also be working with schools and providers to ensure that students currently in alternative education and activity centres are getting the right learning opportunities and the right support.
“Alternative education and activity centre providers and tutors often cite a range of unmet needs that their students require support with before they can re-engage in learning, including mental health issues and dependency on drugs and alcohol. This is often too late in students’ educational pathways to take meaningful action.
“We will be engaging with the relevant national bodies to draw on their experience and expertise in delivering improved social, educational and life outcomes for disengaged young people.
“All of our young people deserve a high-quality education that sets them onto a pathway to realise their full potential and achieve educational success,” Ms Upston says.