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Youth Health Centres Could Be At Risk

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Kevin Hague
Kevin Hague

By Matthew Backhouse of NZPA

Wellington, Aug 18 NZPA - Communities could be at risk of losing some youth health services due to confusion around funding and a lack of national direction.

Parliament's health select committee today heard submissions on the country's 11 "youth one-stop shops", which offer a range of community-based health and social services to people in their teens and early 20s.

A one-stop shop in Christchurch closed its doors earlier this year after the Canterbury District Health Board (DHB) pulled its funding amid concerns over its finances. Another centre in Invercargill is under threat after the Southland DHB axed its funding.

The Ministry of Health said in its submission today that an evaluation last year found one-stop shops had shown "promising signs of success", but their coverage was patchy and funding could be uncertain.

Last year they received $6.8 million in funding, with $4.7 million coming from DHBs and the rest coming from the community.

Funding amounts were not routinely reported to the ministry and varied from year to year.

Green MP Kevin Hague said he was concerned with the ongoing viability of the centres in the current funding environment.

"We're at risk of losing others on the basis of this funding confusion."

He was also concerned their funding was mainly up to the DHBs.

"I'm worried ... because we're not responding in a national way."

Ministry of Health deputy director of health Janice Wilson said sustainability of funding was a priority.

"That's the first work that we're undertaking," Dr Wilson said.

"DHBs have the responsibility of making their own decisions on this. They need to assess that for themselves, within their own communities, how much they can support the funding of a number of providers."

Constance Lehman, the ministry's manager of child, youth and maternity policy, said the ability to secure funding varied around the country.

"If they have a good reputation within their local area and they know how to maintain those relationships, they're more likely I would say to continue to get contracts and funding."

The one-stop shops were often started by grass-roots organisations, she said.

"Many of ... the people who started the one-stop shops did not come in as people who knew how to manage organisations, or set up systems and structures to have organisations function effectively."

Strengthening management and building greater co-operation between the one-stop shops were priorities, Dr Lehman said.

Labour MP Ruth Dyson questioned why the ministry had not done more to assess the health outcomes achieved by the youth centres.

Dr Lehman said the ministry's evaluation last year had not focused on outcomes because it was intended to find out which aspects young people felt were helpful for them, and what kinds of support were being provided.

Many said they used the one-stop shops because they were confidential, and they were not judged for seeking advice on issues such as mental and sexual health.

"They're accessing health services where they feel comfortable."

The health select committee sought the ministry's submission after Labour MP Jacinda Ardern tabled a petition in Parliament seeking sustainable funding for one-stop shops.

The 11 one-stop shops are in Whangarei, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo, Hastings, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Wanganui, Wellington, Dunedin and Invercargill.

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