Backing young people to succeed on bail

Published: February 23, 2021

Breaching bail conditions can have serious consequences for a young person, so the Youth Justice team is increasing its support to help young people successfully complete bail.

Teenage boy throws a basketball

Imagine: you’re 15. You made a bad decision and got picked up by the Police. You’ve been bailed at home with a 24/7 curfew, conditions you don’t understand, Police checks at any time, and no other support. What do you think is likely to happen next?

For some young people, that’s the reality facing them and their whānau – with bail breaches then almost inevitable. In 2020, there were 794 bail breaches, 565 by those 16 and younger. A bail breach can make it more likely that a young person is remanded in custody, so helping them successfully complete bail can have a big impact on keeping them out of police cells or a secure placement.  

Central North Island Youth Justice Regional Manager Shaun Brown leads the Success on Bail programme, supported by a committed team of Josh Chester-Master, Catherine Howard, Bridget McDonald and Phyllis Meier, with Carol Kitson coordinating the work across the streams. They work alongside experts in Partnering for Outcomes, Tech and Channels and the frontline as well as agency partners and local communities.

“It’s a collaborative effort, with everyone having areas they’re focused on. We’re looking forward to a lot of progress in the coming months, which will make a big difference to young people,” said Shaun.

Growing our influence

We’ve learned that some conditions can be confusing, so we partnered with Talking Trouble Aotearoa to deliver training to staff to help explain the conditions and ensure the young person understands  – and we’re making a greater contribution to the decision to bail as well as the experience young people and whānau have while bailed.

The Remand Options Investigation Tool (ROIT) is intended to inform the remand decision making process and supports participants to reach a joint recommendation for the judge based on information gathered about identity, culture, past trauma, relationships, and protective factors alongside risk factors.  The ROIT enables us, Police, and other agencies, to explore alternatives to custody by building our shared understanding of each young person and their personal circumstances, resulting in more suitable conditions. We’re now working with frontline practitioners to digitise the ROIT and make it more accessible and easier to complete.

Bridget McDonald and Catherine Howard are also working alongside the High Impact Innovation Programme (HIIP) - a cross-justice sector transformation and innovation project delivery team - to further develop electronic bail solutions.

Supported bail

Supported Bail was designed in 2006 to support young people stay in the community, while waiting for their Family Group Conference.  It is now going to be tailored to the needs of each rangatahi and their whānau, delivered at times when rangatahi are at risk of breaching their bail conditions or when whānau require specific support.

This year, current Supported Bail providers are invited to discuss new agreements with Oranga Tamariki. Phyllis Meir and Catherine Howard have been instrumental in developing the new Supported Bail specifications which will see a change in how we offer Supported Bail. There is also a new reporting framework that reflects wellbeing outcomes and a shift to funding based on outcomes. Discussions are held at a local level - with national support - and the procurement process is flexible to allow community-specific solutions.

Room to breathe

We’ve also increased the number of community homes that can offer a young person a place to stay when staying at home carries some risk that bail conditions can’t be complied with.  It’s a short-term placement while the young person and the people they live with are provided support to reduce that risk.

Already, these homes are making a difference. Young people can be bailed rather than remanded and with more homes around New Zealand, can stay closer to home and the people supporting them.  

To find out more get in touch with the team or contact youthjustice@ot.govt.nz