Kelly slams military course for youths

Last updated 07:47 18/02/2013
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A critic of the Government's military-style youth development courses has slammed Social Development minister Paula Bennett for knowing about processes that led to troubled youth being abused.

The Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly says the Government should have turned its back on the courses years ago when research showed poor outcomes.

Ms Kelly called the course a "one-trick pony" that did not support young people into jobs."I don't blame Work and Income, their job is to fill these programmes up - I blame Paula Bennett," she said. "She has not come up with a comprehensive programme suitable for young people. This is a timebomb and then for [youth] to be abused on the course is terrible."

But Ms Bennett stood by the course yesterday, saying "employers who give one graduate a job, often end up employing more".

The six-week programme, officially known as Limited Service Volunteer (LSV) courses, are run by the New Zealand Defence Force in partnership with the Social Development Ministry, aimed at helping young people at risk of being on the benefit long-term, to find work.

Fairfax Media yesterday revealed that troubled teens who enrolled in the course had been assaulted and abused by military personnel who ran the programme. Two military staff have faced disciplinary proceedings.

Ms Kelly attended an induction programme about two years ago with a young person who had been told to be present by Work and Income.

"These young people were sitting in the room with their heads down instead of up, the way they were being treated, and [a Work and Income representative] got up at the end and said ‘I know what you're going to say - can you smoke, yes, you can smoke'," she said. "It was an absolutely disrespectful attitude towards our youth."

Ms Kelly said it was obvious the Government had a quota to fill and youth were bullied into attending the course.

"At the induction programme they're not being told it's voluntary; they're being told it will be put as a mark against them. They're not being offered anything else," she said. "I raised this issue with Paula Bennett right at the beginning . . . I was appalled by the presentation and I was particularly appalled that they shaved their heads."

Ms Kelly said Ms Bennett was surprised about the head-shaving and asked for advice, but she never heard back from her.

Ms Bennett said "these voluntary courses are run by the military, on military grounds, this is no secret".

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- Fairfax Media


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