Care Experienced Young People Call On Government To Rethink Punitive Measures, As Petition Delivered To Parliament – VOYCE

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VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai was one of more than 30 organisations to deliver a petition to political leaders yesterday opposing moves to introduce measures to criminalise young children.

The Ram Raids Bill, currently before Select Committee, would create a new criminal offence for ram raiding. It would be punishable by up to 10 years in jail, and would apply to children as young as 12.

The petition handover comes the same week the Government announced a raft of new measures around youth crime including introducing a new “Young Serious Offender” category for 14 – 17 year olds, and military style boot camps.

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has been advocating for care experienced tamariki since 2017, and CEO Tracie Shipton says the new measures won’t curb the type of youth offending the public is most worried about.

“On the extreme end of serious offenders you’re probably talking about a maximum of 30 young people, that’s probably not going to make a big difference to what’s happening on the streets of Auckland.”

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Shipton says VOYCE, along with a collective of organisations, community leaders, scholars and health practitioners have long been opposing the Ram Raids Bill, and with the addition of the new measures she says it feels like their concerns just aren’t being heard.

“The answers to youth offending don’t lie in harsh responses. Children and young people simply don’t have the brain development that allows them to manage their impulsive behaviours – and the threat of more punitive outcomes won’t change this.”

There’s now concern about what the introduction of the new measures, along with the continuation of the Ram Raid Bill will mean for some of our most vulnerable rangatahi.

“The drivers that underlie youth offending are societal, and the answers to keeping these children and our communities safe lies in prevention. We need to wrap around families and support them with these issues. Not wait for their situations to deteriorate and escalate to the point where children are committing serious offences. By then it’s almost too late.”

VOYCE National Care Experienced Lead Tupua Urlich says the measures will do nothing to address the underlying causes.

“Policies to further punish those who you’ve already failed are nothing short of gutless. If you’re serious about addressing youth crime, address the drivers – poverty, abuse, trauma, isolation and disconnection.”

Rangatahi Advocate Karah Mackie agrees, and says young people are turning to crime because of a lack of support.

“When you’re growing up disconnected from your whole whakapapa and alienated by people who don’t understand, a lot of the time the only communities that you find any sense of understanding from are gang whānau or young offenders.”

“I had countless people try to awhina me in some way or another, and although I didn’t usually take that awhina at the time, it added to my belief that I wasn’t doomed to end up in prison.”

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai is now calling on the Government to rethink its punitive responses, scrap the ram raid bill and follow the evidence that early intervention does much more to support tamariki, rangatahi and their whanau than punishment.

ABOUT VOYCE:

We are VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, which stands for Voice of the Young and Care Experienced – Listen to me. Established in 2017, we are an independent charity organisation that helps to advocate for the approximately 6000 children with care experience (children in foster or whanau care) in New Zealand.

We exist to amplify the voices of these children and ensure that they are heard – so as to positively influence their individual care and to collectively affect change in the wider care system. VOYCE was co-designed by children with care experience for children with care experience.

1 COMMENT

  1. So long as that intervention actually takes place. With zero follow up by authorities, and zero consequences for e.g. failing to show up to counseling, that intervention has simply been missing – ALL alternative-to-court systems have been similarly useless since forever.

    Intervention needs to be through courts, with binding outcomes and real monitoring.

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