Thursday, December 13, 2012

Boot camps---will they ever work?

The National Party made much of its policy re ‘boot camps’ for young people who have gone seriously off the rails. The figures coming out today about the successor lack of it are up for scrutiny. Depending which way you look at it you will make up your own mind about the efficacy of them.
Some say 50% of the kids fail and go back to their old ways. Another way of looking at those figures is to say that 50% of the kids change and go on to better themselves. OK, perhaps we should look at what works and what makes kids go back to failure.
Firstly, make the courses longer and have a much bigger element of ‘training’ for work, which would include firms taking  on people to learn a trade or some other form of work. There is enough goodwill out there from small and medium sized firms to make this work. Add a sweetener in the form of a ‘subsidy’ and there will be a bigger uptake.
I know that some of these kids in boot camps come from families that do not have a healthy base in which to learn good behaviours and there may be an economic deficit. Even these kids can change, so long as they do not return them to live in the same old patterns. Another way of putting that is to say---‘if you return a person to muddy waters; well you know the rest. To break a pattern of poor school attendance, criminal behaviours and drug and alcohol abuse, young offenders must not return to the world they came from. Making the courses longer and creating new successful links will lead to a much higher success rate.
It may be too late for many of the parents of these young people, so we need to concentrate on the young. If for some reason that works, and the parents decide to address their own issues, then well and good. Putting the resources into people who want to change their lives is obviously the best way to go. An element of compulsion to partake in the schemes is necessary too.
Listening to talk back radio today was frustrating. The same old clichés about sticking the kids into the army came out loud and strong. I say, why the hell should we lumber the army with these kids, until that is the kids have changed. Let’s face it, the army is not resourced nor has the skills to make real changes in individuals who refuse to change. What are they going to do—lock them up and put them in chain gangs?
OK, back to reality. Put the resources in to make the ‘boot camps work. That entails the right level of support, including counselling, work experience and working with the families. Put all that into the schemes and we will see the figures for success go up and we will all be the winners. Including all young people in society is far better than further marginalizing them.