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Southern Mayors are unhappy that a successful youth programme in the south could be threatened. The Work'n It Out programme works with all school leavers from Timaru south to ensure they don't fall between the cracks and has had a good success rate with getting youth into work, apprenticeships or further studies.
The programme includes youth from the age of 15 to 19. Mentoring, careers advice, support with job search skills and support to look at training options on a one-on-one basis are provided.
The programme is a collaboration between government agencies, local government, industry and communities and was held up as a possible model for the rest of the country.
However, it is believed the Government plans to not fund this programme and instead fund a new programme for 16 and 17-year-olds.
Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno, Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan, Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, Central Otago District Mayor Tony Lepper and Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt are unanimous in their dismay over this move.
Mrs Cardno, a longtime advocate for youth, is particularly concerned.
"We have an excellent and successful programme, and now we are being punished for that. This region often comes up with innovative and exciting ways to deal with issues, and it is very unfortunate that we don't get any credit from Central Government for this," she said.
"They're dumbing down our service so the rest of New Zealand can catch up."
Mrs Cardno said the new programme will see 18 and 19 year olds miss out.
"They will get lost in the system and there is nothing for them - it just is not good enough."
Mr Cadogan said at a time that youth unemployment is at record highs, it is just untenable that central Government is contemplating a withdrawal of support for 18 and 19 year olds, and only focusing on 16 and 17 year olds.
"Work'n It Out is my go-to team with such a success at getting our young ones through that transition from education to employment. Now purely for financial reasons, all 18 to 19 year olds will be only assisted when they apply to the Ministry of Social Development.
"These are good kids who deserve the chance as presently available," he said.
In the 2010-11 financial year, 933 young people received one-on-one support through the programme. Of that, 77% achieved either employment or further education or training.
About 52% of the youth using the Work'n It Out programme are aged 18 and 19.
Mr Hicks has written to Clutha-Southland MP Bill English about the Mayors' concerns.
"I said to Mr English that I am concerned that this new programme may significantly depower Work'n It Out. If this is the case it will be a real tragedy for the Otago/Southland region.
"The model in place is a locally developed solution that has been modified and enhanced over the past few years to be a great example of best practice in action and one all of us who have been involved in that evolution have become very proud of.
"It would be a real shame to see all the good work of the past overlooked to have a one size fits all option replace it, as well as somewhat ironic that the rollout would result in redundancy within the service," Mr Hicks said.
Mr Cull said Dunedin has an extremely high youth unemployment rate so "we need to maintain efforts. It should not be either 15 to 17 year olds, or 18 to 24 year olds. We need both."