Hawera youth scheme needed

JARED SMITH
Last updated 05:00 13/10/2012
Simon Howard
JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
PRESSING NEEDS: Stratford senior constable Simon Howard would like to help Hawera youth the same way the Lions Den does in Stratford.

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Hawera is desperate for a project that will help get young people out of the courts and keep them away, Stratford's youth development officer says.

Senior Constable Simon Howard has for the past four years run a youth justice project in Stratford emphasising "prevention first". He takes youths to the Lions Den - a sports gym - for group and one-on-one sessions with him and other role models.

"It's identifying those who are at risk of being in the system - being victims, being young offenders, you can put them on the right path before they go down that road," Mr Howard said.

"If we can get them out of the youth justice system, get them out of the court and do something with them at that time, generally we get really good results."

The Lions Den has mats, training bags, and youth boxing and jiu-jitsu classes.

"You sit down with a boy that's been naughty and ask them how they're feeling or tell them to stop it, it's a pretty fruitless sort of attempt," Mr Howard said.

"Whereas if you get out and do something physical with them, get stuck into them, do press-ups or whatever, you tend to get a good bond." Hawera needed something similar "big-time", he said.

"I have kids come from Hawera, but it's so hard because generally the background they come from, poverty is an issue.

"If we can find a prevention-first model that will work in Hawera, man, I'm going to be all over it."

Mr Howard met South Taranaki District Council staff, youth agencies like Child, Youth and Family, and community members on Monday.

A working group will be set up and the project could get off the ground late next year.

STDC youth development adviser Peter Heard said they needed ideas from the public, perhaps from those who had skills in the youth area or had gone through similar tough experiences themselves.

"The key message is that we're interested for input from the community.

"Without people from the community getting involved the project won't fly."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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