$2m initiative to steer at-risk youth away from crime

It will fund outreach programmes and help agencies assess the young's needs, risk levels

About 900 at-risk youth are expected to benefit from a $2 million scheme starting in April next year.

The Youth-at-Risk Engagement Framework will fund programmes to steer young people away from crime, improve their family relationships and help them stay in school.

It will also roll out standardised risk-assessment tools that government agencies, schools and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) can use to find out what their needs are.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin announced this yesterday at a conference attended by 1,000 participants from government agencies, VWOs and schools.

There is now no common assessment and evaluation tool across the various agencies and organisations working with young people. But they need to know the problems young people are facing, said Mr Tan. "We need to know the level of risk and needs of a youth before we can prescribe the appropriate intervention, make a referral to another agency or work together on a shared plan to help him."

Last year, there were 66 young people below the age of 16 who were deemed beyond parental control, and 1,369 in that age group were arrested.

A social worker from Lakeside Family Services, Mr Weevyn To, 32, said some VWOs might miss out some problem areas in a young person's life due to their specific focuses, such as education or drug-related offences. A standardised tool could help agencies identify every problem, he said.

CREATING GROWTH PATHWAYS

This will help guide our youth workers, from entry level to more experienced echelons, to build their competencies and chart their careers in a systematic and progressive manner. It's important for us to provide the ecosystem that, in turn, supports the young people.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT TAN CHUAN-JIN, on helping youth workers build careers

"If there's a heightened awareness of other issues that might contribute, such as parents' behaviour, it might prompt agencies to focus on the other problems or refer to another VWO," he said.

The $2 million initiative will also fund programmes proposed by agencies that use sports, mentoring and the arts to help at-risk youth.

Mr Tan also announced a second initiative - the National Youth Work Competency Framework - which will chart training and career progression of youth workers.

This will be ready by the second half of 2017 and is expected to benefit 200 youth workers.

He said: "This will help guide our youth workers, from entry level to more experienced echelons, to build their competencies and chart their careers in a systematic and progressive manner.

"It's important for us to provide the ecosystem that, in turn, supports the young people."

Mr Tan also announced that the National Committee on Youth Guidance and Rehabilitation, set up in 1995 to coordinate efforts between government agencies, the courts and community groups to reduce juvenile delinquency and youth crime, will have a new chairman - Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline '$2m initiative to steer at-risk youth away from crime'. Print Edition | Subscribe