Who will pick up the pieces?

YES Albury’s Lucinda Rhook says axing the programs will hurt young people who face real barriers to staying engaged in the mainstream. Picture: KYLIE ESLER
YES Albury’s Lucinda Rhook says axing the programs will hurt young people who face real barriers to staying engaged in the mainstream. Picture: KYLIE ESLER

BORDER youth services providers are angry the federal government has axed the money for two key education and jobs programs.

And they want to know — who will pick up the pieces?

Funding for Youth Connections and the School Business Community Partnership Network — aimed at 11-19-year-olds — ends in December.

“Connections” provides one-on-one help for at-risk youth to address depression, family violence and money problems that can stop them finishing school or training.

The program is provided by YES Albury and Workways Wodonga.

“Partnerships” is a federal program delivered by the state-funded Murray Industry and Community Education Employment Partnership and the North East Local Learning and Employment Network.

It supports young people and helps them train and find work.

With youth unemployment at 17.5 per cent in the North East and 13.4 per cent in Albury, providers say the programs are essential.

Murray partnership’s Kim Strachan said without the programs, the region risked “a lost generation of young people”.

“It’s all very well to say we need to stimulate the economy to create more jobs, but it’s not that simple,” she said.

“We provide the link between schools and businesses, which the Liberal Party constantly says needs to happen.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to go against their own ethos.”

Parliamentary education secretary Senator Scott Ryan said Partnerships was only funded until late this year and “under difficult budget circumstances, the best thing that this government can do for young Australians is to provide a strong and growing economy”.

He said Connections was to be handed over to the states and they had “determined not to take on this program and, instead, run other transitions services”.

He said the needs of young people would be met through programs like Job Services Australia, Disability Employment Services and the Indigenous Employment Program, “increasing personal initiative and responsibility” through work-for-dole, and the volunteer Green Army project.

But acting chief executive at YES Albury, Lucinda Rhook, said this did not address the needs of 11-16-year-olds who had benefited from Connections.

“Before the program, these young people were just disappearing from mainstream schooling because the schools weren’t resourced to address these issues,” she said.

“It’s all well and good to say they should just go to school, but they face real barriers to staying engaged and they are really struggling.

“The flow-on effect is they will end up on welfare with no support or training to get back on track.”

North East network chief executive Lisa Mahood said its services directly helped make young people job-ready, both in terms of training and socially.

“If you continue to take away the support for young people, particular in areas of high unemployment, who’s going to help?”

Indi MP Cathy McGowan said she was concerned about the changes and would speak further with her constituents.

“There’s this assumption that one size fits all but that’s just not the case, I can’t see the big picture at all,” she said.

Liberal member for Farrer, Sussan Ley had referred The Border Mail’s questions to Senator Ryan for comment.