Youth Services told to Work Together» 27/05/2010, Posted by Diana Beattie
The Government is challenging the large number of organisations providing youth services to smarten up how they communicate.
Otherwise, the Ministry of Youth Development's relevance was at risk, Minister of Youth Affairs Paula Bennett said in Nelson on Saturday. She was speaking at the YMCA 2010 national convention, held in Nelson to mark 150 years of YMCA in the city.
Ms Bennett, who holds the youth affairs portfolio among several other portfolios including social development, said the youth sector was now at a pinnacle, where there were a plethora of organisations dedicated to young people and youth issues but there was little sharing of knowledge, co-ordination, cohesion and leadership.
She also questioned if "patch protection" was going on, and whether too many groups were working in isolation. "Within the Ministry of Youth Development, I want to be in a place when the question arises, ?do we really need you?', to be able to say we are relevant," Ms Bennett said.
She said a 2005 research report recognised the high level of fragmentation in the youth services sector which was led by a highly motivated but lowly qualified workforce.
Nelson MP Nick Smith told The Nelson Mail the type of fragmentation was relevant to Nelson. "We have a number of good, dedicated organisations but they could work more closely together." Dr Smith said the Government wanted to put into contracts with youth service providers a requirement that they collaborate, and wanted to encourage youth organisations, especially in small centres like Nelson, to focus on the things they were good at and allow other organisations to fill the gaps where it was not core activity. "The Government is not looking for financial savings but more bang for its buck ? that means getting more services for the money it spends on youth areas," Dr Smith said.
He said there was huge respect for the work youth organisations were doing but the Government wanted to challenge them in the tight financial environment to think about how they could work more closely together and they could be supported to improve services for youth.
Ms Bennett said there were 2000 paid youth workers in New Zealand and more volunteers. About 52 per cent were women and half were aged under 30. Most had been working with youth for three years and a relatively large group had been in the sector 10 years or more.
YMCA chief executive Ric Odom said a problem lay in the unknown number of organisations providing youth services.
Ms Bennett asked whether the sector was capable and mature enough to lead the way. "This is not a bagging because so much great work is being done but there are some groups working in isolation, and doing great work, but who do they tell? "I get conflicting information coming to me about where the needs are," she told the YMCA convention.
It was the Government's view that the YMCA, one of the largest non-profit youth organisations in New Zealand with more than 40 centres, had a crucial role to play in asserting leadership. General manager of YMCA South Canterbury Keith Shaw said on Saturday the organisation could give itself some "big ticks" but there was work to be done. "I think we are well placed to respond to the challenge, which for us is to determine whether the Government should lead the sector, or should the sector lead," Mr Shaw said.
Dr Smith said fragmentation occurred at the Government's end too. "Money in the youth area is spent through the social development, corrections and education ministries. They are all spending money in the youth patch but they are not as well co-ordinated as they could be."