Youth project turns out Sweet

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 04/08/2014

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Nine months on from the launch of an innovative social service programme, gains are now being made to benefit South Taranaki youth.

Manager Mel Loft said many in the district were now behind the philosophy of the programme and were supportive of it.

"There's real traction now," she said.

The social sector trial is one of 16 operating around the country and has four broad aims of reducing offending, truancy and alcohol and drug use, while increasing the numbers of youth in employment or training.

Loft said a number of initiatives had been put in place since December, including the employment of a psychologist to work in South Taranaki high schools, as well as an education forum where schools could get together to discuss issues.

"It's an opportunity for the smaller schools that aren't always on the radar."

Loft said the trial helped bring a number of professionals together which also helped identify gaps in current services.

One of the major challenges to date was making sure the unique needs of different towns in South Taranaki were met. "What Opunake wants is different to what Patea wants."

Sergeant Kayanna Holley, of Stratford, said there was a good fit between the government's Youth Crime Action plan, which was implemented in 2013, and the trial. "This is a good avenue for us to focus our prevention work on," Holley said.

The recent formation of the Blue Light committee was one example of this, along with the roll out of the ‘Keeping Ourselves Safe' programme to all South Taranaki schools interested in taking it up.

Loft said she had received a lot of support from people in the community. The trial, which runs until June 2015, was also recently rebranded and is now known as Sweet, or South working to enable and energise teens.

Loft said the new name better reflected the revised scope of the project. "Young people are one of the biggest strengths in our community. They want to see positive change and improvement and they want to succeed."

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