“Fat Tony” Williams knows money when he sees it

The Labour Party thrived under Mike Williams’ leadership because he knows how to shake money from pockets.  He also knows when it’s pork barrel time.

Having waved a $300 million interest-free loan under Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s nose early last week, the Government in the form of Prime Minister Bill English visited Hawke’s Bay to announce an investment package of $50m to help at-risk young people into employment in Hawke’s Bay, Northland, Eastern Bay of Plenty, and the East Coast.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little rightly reminded us that not long ago the same Bill English had apparently given up on the same group, bemoaning idleness and drug abuse.

But better late than never, and although the amount when spread over such wide areas is not a lot, it’s better than nothing.

Spent wisely, this money will pay dividends for the taxpayer but it will take goodwill and, most of all, co-ordination from a range of services, to create “wrap-around” support.

The following is an email (with names changed) I received from one of the senior probation officers who refer offenders to us for our drivers’ licence programme in West Auckland: “Here is a great story about one of our youth offenders who this week gained full-time employment with (an Auckland construction company)!

“Rangi is a 19-year-old Maori youth who was sentenced to Intensive Supervision, community detention and community work for serious drug offences. He was referred to the employment team by his probation officer for support in May of this year.

“It was quickly identified during the interview that Rangi was dependent on cannabis and freely disclosed he has tried on several occasions to give up but suffered from withdrawal whenever he tried.

“Rangi was the first to admit he was not ready for fulltime employment and needed to address his drug dependency first.

“Together, the CEEO (Corrections Education and Employment Office) and Probation Office conceived an employment pathway to assist Rangi. Firstly he was offered the incentive that he would be placed with Howard League to gain his learner driver licence if he reduced his cannabis use.

“This wero (challenge) was assisted by his probation officer using the alcohol and drug Te Ao Marama booklet supplied by the Drug and Alcohol Council. This is a great tool to use one on one with the right client.

“It takes an individual on a journey of self discovery using a CD that recounts the struggle four individuals had addressing their own issues with drugs and alcohol. The booklet then has the client recount his upbringing and the reasons why he uses substances.

“The booklet can be used over a number of weeks or months as homework, depending on the client. The probation officer has, and continues to, work one on one with Rangi using this tool and has made astonishing progress. Rangi has now been drug-free for the past month”.

Please note how many people, resources and agencies were involved in this story.
If the new money means we can get this kind of outcome again and again, it will be money very well spent.

It fair to say that had there not been an election this year, then that $50m would probably have gone to propping up a rocket business, or some destitute sailors.

Getting young people into the workforce is a critical step in making sure they become contributing tax payers instead of life-time state dependants.

 

– Mike Williams, Hawkes Bay Today

 


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