By ERWIN CHLANDA
Families Minister and MLA for Braitling Dale Wakefield will neither confirm nor deny that NT Government funds are being provided to purchase suburban homes to accommodate juveniles charged with crimes but granted bail.
We have received no responses in reply to questions we asked Ms Wakefield following contacts from concerned residents: How many houses? In what streets? At what average purchase cost per house?
Who will manage these homes and what are their qualifications? Do the homes have security facilities to keep bailed youths from absconding in violation of any orders the court may be making?
What powers will the managers have to prevent such absconding? What is the total cost of the initiative? How many juveniles will it cater for? How many are on bail at the moment?
Meanwhile Ms Wakefield says in a media release the NT Government has allocated $4.86m to youth bail support services in Darwin and Alice Springs, “as part of the $18.2m Better Outcomes for Youth Justice Reform.
“The new support services for young people aged 10 to 17 years include bail support accommodation, bail supervision and a bail support and referral line.
AT LEFT: Juvenile detention cell in Alice Springs to be renovated. Bail accommodation will avoid having to put young people in facilities like that whilst awaiting trial.
“The new bail support services will improve bail accountability by providing the support and supervision that young people need to meet their bail conditions.”
She says Saltbush Social Enterprises has been appointed as the provider to deliver bail support services.
Managing Director Karen Sheldon AM said that the organisation will be working closely with the Government and other stakeholders to put young people back on the right path.
The media release says bail support accommodation aims to reduce the number of young people remanded in police watch houses or youth detention centres.
“Common reasons for young people being remanded in custody include a lack of suitable accommodation for bail purposes, difficulties locating responsible adults to support young people on bail and a lack of access to support services and programs.”
A service for young females in Alice Springs has been operated by Alice Springs Youth Accommodation and Support Services (ASYASS) since August 2017, and will continue.
Bail supervision will be in place 24/7 within the bail support accommodation, as a collaborative effort between Youth Outreach and Re-engagement Officers and Saltbush Social Enterprises, says the release.
Bail supervision includes transport to ensure that children get to court, school, medical and therapeutic appointments and other services that will help them meet their bail conditions and case management plan.
UPDATE February 13
Minister Wakefield and Territory Families have now provided the following answers to questions from the Alice Springs News Online.
I understand Anglicare and possibly other NGOs are being funded by the NT government to acquire homes to be used as bail accommodation for juveniles accused of offences.
That is incorrect. Saltbush Social Enterprises has been appointed to provide new bail support services in Darwin and Alice Springs, in partnership with Territory Families. The bail support accommodation service for young females in Alice Springs, operated by Alice Springs Youth Accommodation and Support Services (ASYASS) since August 2017, will continue.
How many houses?
Saltbush operates one bail support accommodation facility in Darwin, and one in Alice Springs. ASYASS operates one bail support accommodation facility for young females in Alice Springs. There are three facilities in total.
In what streets?
Territory Families does not publicly share the details of facilities where vulnerable children and young people are being accommodated. Territory Families consulted with the neighbours of all three properties during the establishment process.
At what average purchase cost per house?
Bail support accommodation is being provided at premises already owned by Territory Families, or supplied by the service provider.
Who will manage these homes and what are their qualifications?
Saltbush and ASYASS manage these facilities day-to-day, in partnership with Territory Families. The appointment of Saltbush Social Enterprises to provide new bail support accommodation services was determined through a two-stage public tender process, where submissions were assessed based on criteria including providers’ past performance, capacity and experience in working with youth.
Do the homes have security facilities to keep bailed youths from absconding in violation of any orders the court may be making?
A young person can’t “escape” or “abscond” from bail support accommodation. They are able to leave at any time, as this accommodation is an alternative to detention to provide a facility for young people on remand before any court decision is potentially brought against them. Voluntary departure however may result in the young person breaching their bail conditions.
What is the total cost of the initiative?
NT Government has allocated $4.86m to bail support services in Darwin and Alice Springs for 2017-18, committing $4.1m in funding per year for the three years to follow. This is part of the government’s $18.2m Better Outcomes for Youth Justice Reform package announced in early 2017.
How many juveniles will it cater for?
Each facility operated by Saltbush is able to accommodate 12 young males, on average, per day. The Darwin facility will also be able to accommodate young females, provided it is safe and secure to do so at the time. The bail support accommodation service for young females in Alice Springs, operated by ASYASS 2017, will continue (as above). These premises can accommodate up to four young females on average per day, if required.
How many are on bail at the moment?
As at 12 February 2018, there are five young people in bail support accommodation in the Northern Territory; three in Darwin, and two in Alice Springs.
By ERWIN CHLANDA