LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The lack of plans by NT Children and Families Minister John Elferink following the decision to defund the YSOS is a major concern for all people living in Alice Springs.
When Minister Elferink’s government removed funding for Congress’s after hours Youth Patrol service 12 months ago, the explanation provided was that the service duplicated his government’s own Youth Street Outreach Service, known as the YSOS.
The Congress Youth Patrol was achieving more than 5000 encounters per year with ‘at risk’ children and youth and transporting many of these young people back home and off the streets.
It was also working closely with their families. The YSOS was providing a similar service, so Congress was forced to accept the rationale at the time that government was not prepared to fund two such services. The strengths of the YSOS were:–
• Unlike other youth services, the YSOS operated all night, seven nights per week.
• Unlike other services, its professionally trained staff had extra powers to facilitate co-operation by the ‘at risk’ children and their carers.
• Unlike other services, YSOS co-ordinated with other relevant agencies (NGOs, Child Welfare, Police and Night Patrols) through the hub and thus was able to achieve quick follow-up and case management of problems.
The citizens of Alice Springs need to know exactly how Minister Elferink is proposing to fill the gaps caused by the defunding of the Youth Hub co-ordination capacity, the Youth Street Outreach Service, and the Congress Youth Night Patrol.
His government can’t have it both ways – there is now no service funded to do this work. Returning to year zero on these matters is not an option.
The reality is that ‘at risk’ kids will – for a myriad of reasons – continue to find their way onto the streets, often at night.
There is an obligation on the government’s part, to ensure that the funding for such an essential service for ‘at risk’ youth is provided to an appropriate community organisation.
Donna Ah Chee (pictured)
CEO, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress