Disadvantaged families need greater support to reduce juvenile offending

Disadvantaged families need greater support to reduce juvenile offending

UnitingCare Burnside is commending the call by Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Greg Smith, for greater support for disadvantaged families to reduce juvenile offending.

It was a crowded house awaiting Mr Smith when he addressed the juvenile justice public forum that was chaired by UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families Director Social Justice, Karen Bevan, at the Factory Community Centre in Waterloo.

In a wide-ranging speech and subsequent Q&A session, the Attorney General said there was a need to address unrealistic bail conditions and reduce intensive bail check-ups on young people by police where they weren’t constructive, a goal welcomed by UnitingCare Children Young People and Families, which has advocated on this issue for a number of years.

“We’ve heard stories about how intensive bail check-ups by police sometimes result in whole households being woken up, often late at night just so police can check that a young person is home in bed after curfew. It doesn’t set up good relations between police and families and it really doesn’t achieve much,” said Ms Bevan.

“Removing the focus on these kinds of intrusive policing strategies from the new State Plan is an important step. We hope it reduces the cost of policing bail, frees police up for their other pressing duties and results in an improved system for managing young people on bail.”

With over 6,000 young people on remand last year – a figure that has doubled since 2007 – Mr Smith also addressed the need to reform the Bail Act 1978 to make it simpler to understand and to reduce the number of young people held on remand.

However, the key to the Attorney General’s speech was the need to better support disadvantaged families and children.

Ms Bevan agreed that the over-representation of vulnerable groups in the juvenile justice population points to the need to support communities through earlyintervention and prevention programs.

“The Noetic Report, commissioned then mostly rejected by the previous government, recommends the use of Justice Reinvestment to reduce both the costs of the juvenile justice system and the number of young people entering the system,” said Ms Bevan.

“Last night, we heard promising signs from the Attorney General that the Noetic Report is being relooked at as part of the Department of Juvenile Justice review ‘Youth on Track’. This would be a welcome move, leading to greater support for our most vulnerable families and children.” The public forum, Young People and the Law – A Vision for the Future, was hosted by South Sydney Uniting Church.

UnitingCare Burnside

UnitingCare Burnside is one of the largest providers of child and family services in New South Wales. In 2010, UnitingCare Burnside worked with 13,000 children, young people and family members.

UnitingCare Burnside’s services work directly with children and young people, as well as with families in programs for early intervention and child wellbeing, child protection and outof- home care. It works in disadvantaged communities across rural, regional and metropolitan New South Wales.

UnitingCare Burnside is a member of the UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families Service Group of UnitingCare NSW.ACT.

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