6th Feb 2014

NT Government can’t have it both ways on youth interventions

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee says that the NT Children and Families Minister John Elferink’s lack of plans following the decision to defund the YSOS is a major concern for all people living in Alice Springs.

“When Minister Elferink’s government removed funding for Congress’s after hours Youth Patrol service 12 months ago, the explanation provided was that the service duplicated his government’s own Youth Street Outreach Service, known as the YSOS,” Ms Ah Chee said.

“The Congress Youth Patrol was achieving more than 5000 encounters per year with ‘at risk’ children and youth and transporting many of these young people back home and off the streets. It was also working closely with their families. The YSOS was providing a similar service, so Congress was forced to accept the rationale at the time that government was not prepared to fund two such services,” she added.

“The strengths of the YSOS were:

• Unlike all other youth services, the YSOS operated all night, seven nights per week
• Unlike other services its professionally trained staff had extra powers to compel co-operation by the  ‘at risk’ children and their carers
• Unlike other services YSOS was co-ordinated closely with other relevant agencies (NGOs, Child Welfare, Police, Night Patrols) through the hub, and thus able to achieve quick follow-up and case management of problems

“The citizens of Alice Springs need to know exactly how Minister Elferink is proposing to fill the gaps caused by the defunding of the Youth Hub co-ordination capacity, the Youth Street Outreach Service, and the Congress Youth Night Patrol? His government can’t have it both ways – there is now no service funded to do this work. Returning to year zero on these matters is not an option,” Ms Ah Chee concluded.

“The reality is that ‘at risk’ kids will – for a myriad of reasons – continue to find their way onto the streets, often at night. There is an obligation on the government’s part, to ensure that the funding for such an essential service for ‘at risk’ youth is provided to an appropriate community organisation,” she said.

Media Contact: Emily MacKenzie, Communications Officer  Ph: 08 8958 3657