A newer approach to helping youths stay out of crime appears to be showing promise for the New England region, according to an evaluation report out today.
The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) report checks in on a randomised trial of the Youth on Track scheme with a shorter one called Fast track.
Although BOCSAR won't report on the re-offending rates in one versus the other until 2021, stakeholders have labelled the longer program as "great", "fantastic" and "brilliant".
The report evaluates whether the trial of the two schemes is going as planned and whether there have been any unexpected consequences, positive or negative.
They are being implemented for children and teens 10 to 17 years old "who are not yet entrenched in the criminal justice system but [have] a medium to high likelihood of re-offending".
Youth on Track was rolled out in the New England from late 2016 and is being delivered in this region by Centacare, contracted by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.
A young person can be in the program for 12 weeks to 12 months, depending on their risk and needs.
This compares with the less intensive six-week Fast Track, developed specially for the trial as a control measure, and designed to provide only minimal support and intervention.
Another key difference is that Youth on Track includes work with family members to improve relationships, communication and parenting skills, while Fast Track does not.
Random, controlled trial
The randomisation of young people into the two groups began about two years ago and will continue until about 350 people have been allocated to each.
The "vast majority" of 52 stakeholders across six sites - New England, Hunter, Central West, Mid North Coast, Coffs/Clarence and Blacktown - believe "there is a need for the Youth on Track scheme".
"In fact, one in five (19.6 per cent) stakeholders stated that all aspects of this intervention are working well," the report stated.
Others suggested improvements such as accepting children with violent behaviours, for example, even if police have not been involved.
As for Fast Track, there were some positives, too.
Stakeholders said it could work for youths who had motivation, family support and transport; or "who are at the lower end of the needs spectrum".
It was also easier to predict how long someone would be involved, did not create dependence on the case worker, and allowed for shorter waitlists and more participants.
"The six sites are funded until June 2020 with further funding being sought to June 2022, to allow time for completion of the randomised controlled trial and a report back to NSW Cabinet to consider the results of the evaluation and possible state-wide expansion of the scheme," the report said.
The Leader has contacted Centacare for comment.