The current problems with violent youth crime have been well documented recently in the media. We must remember that these terrible acts only represent a tiny percentage of our young people, who generally strive towards achieving their full potential, and are very valued members of our great country.
But we cannot ignore that there have been a number of high profile incidences of murder and violent bashings where the offenders have been young people. This is a very disturbing trend. What is equally disturbing is the current government's lack of will to tackle the problem.
Simply raising the school leaving age will do nothing. These violent young offenders are not the students who attend school every day and do their best to get good grades. They are young people who have already slipped through the cracks of the educational system. Raising the school leaving age to eighteen will simply increase already worryingly large truancy statistics.
There are two things needed to address this problem.
First we need to take a proactive attitude to preventing young people from becoming youth offenders in the first place. This means we should find effective ways of keeping young people engaged in education and training.
This is what National's Youth Guarantee is all about. It provides quality alternatives to keep young people in education and moving towards meaningful employment.
Attempting to force young people to stay in school, when they obviously do not do well in that environment, has not, and will not work.
National's Youth Guarantee allows them to study at Polytechnics, Wananga's and other industry training organisations that suit their needs. This can include a combination of institutions.Â
Second we need a more effective range of tools to deal with young offenders.
This means we have to expand the powers of the Youth Court to more effectively deal with those who are committing serious offences.Â
This does not mean that we will simply lock them up and throw away the key.
We instead propose to increase the reach of the Youth Court to deal with younger offenders charged with serious crimes.
They will also be able to impose sentences that last for longer, which involve intensive mentoring and drug and alcohol rehabilitation in order to obtain a meaningful intervention that provides a real chance to prevent reoffending. These may also include the more helpful aspects of military training.
It is time for a change to meaningful policies that actually achieve results rather and help those young people before it's too late while effectively dealing with those who cross the line.
National Party Deputy Leader, MP for Southland/Clutha