Sunday, 30 September 2007


Anti-social behaviour plan could target three-year-olds
By ARWEN HANN - The Press | Saturday, 29 September 2007

Plans to screen and treat children as young as three are part of new Government plans to cut anti-social behaviour.

The six-year multi-agency plan has been developed by the ministries of education, health and social development and is designed to increase the number of children getting help for severe anti-social behaviour and conduct disorder.

It is estimated that up to 5 per cent of primary and intermediate pupils have problems with conduct or display severe anti-social behaviour.

The report said it was difficult to assess the effectiveness of intervention services.

However, it said "key challenges" had been identified, including "inadequate and inconsistent mechanisms for identifying and determining eligibility for services for young people" and "gaps in the availability of specialist services".

The plan proposes developing systematic screening for three to seven-year-olds within the education sector.

Treatment plans would include parenting classes and education for teachers on how to deal with disruptive children, as well as a "behaviour change programme" for the child.

A referral for mental health treatment could be included.

The foreword, signed by Education Minister Steve Maharey, Health Minister Pete Hodgson and Associate Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson, said behaviour problems were the "single most important predictor of later chronic anti-social behaviour problems, including poor mental health, academic underachievement, early school-leaving, teenage parenthood, delinquency, unemployment and substance abuse".

Canterbury University College of Education senior lecturer John Church, who contributed to the report, said early intervention was more likely to succeed.

"The critical element is parental involvement and the thing about working with young kids is most parents want the best for their kids," he said. "When their children are three or four, most parents will come on board. By age 12 or 13, the parents usually want out because they have been worn down."

It was also more cost-effective. "It is possible to have a little parenting training, which is a good influence on the children for about $4000 per case at the age of five to six," he said.

Church said that by the age of four it was possible to distinguish between children who were a little badly behaved and those with severe problems.

He said he would also like to see teachers given more training to identify children with severe behavioural problems.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie said the Government needed to back up its words with actions. `There are plenty of organisations out there who are working with these people and know them and what they are looking for."

He said he had similar concerns about the plan to those he had had about Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro's plan to screen all families for signs of abuse. "We need to be targeting that percentage of high-risk families we know about rather than trying to criminalise all families."

The New Zealand Educational Institute said it supported inter-agency plans because the onus for dealing with anti-social behaviour should not fall just on teachers.

1 comment:

Andy Moore said...

Oh, gimme a break. It's sin. You can't solve these problems with money, why can't those beaurocrats work that out?

"dealing with anti-social behaviour should not fall just on teachers."

Of course it shouldn't, it's got nothing to do with the teachers, give them a break too!