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$100K boost for Hawkes Bay driver licensing and literacy programme for young offenders

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The NZ Transport Agency is teaming up with the Howard League for Penal Reform on a programme to help disadvantaged young people in Hawkes Bay gain drivers licences and improve their employment opportunities.

The Howard League for Penal Reform CEO, Mike Williams, anticipates more than 100 Hawkes Bay young offenders will gain their drivers licence this year following a collaboration with the New Zealand Transport Agency to support the League’s Driver Licence and Literacy initiative in the region.

 The New Zealand Transport Agency and the Howard League for Penal Reform this week signed an agreement which will contribute $100,000 from the Government’s Community Road Safety Fund to the League’s driving and literacy programme for young disadvantaged offenders in Hawkes Bay.

“We know that many disadvantaged youngsters often end up in the justice system as they don’t have the means to get their drivers licence and often drive illegally. Compounding the problem, many of them don’t have the literacy skills needed to study the road code and pass the theory test,” Mr Williams says.

Mr Williams said collaborating with the Transport Agency would make a huge difference to the lives of those disadvantaged youngsters selected to participate in the driver licence and literacy programme.

“The Howard League is very happy to be working with the NZTA.  This money will fund our driving and literacy programme for another year and give these youngsters a new appreciation of safe and responsible driving conduct as well as providing them with new skills that can afford them a fresh start in life.  It will also contribute towards building their self-esteem and confidence and hopefully steer them toward positively contributing to the Hawkes Bay community.”

The Transport Agency’s Acting General Manager, Access & Use, Leigh Mitchell, says the Driver Licence and Literacy programme shared common goals for the Transport Agency and the Howard League, including improvement to road safety, reducing driver offending with interventions to help young drivers become safe and legal drivers and addressing the literacy challenges facing some people attempting to gain a drivers licence.

“While the Transport Agency’s key areas of focus are road safety, transport efficiency and productivity, we strongly recognise the contribution driver licencing makes to social, employment and justice outcomes,” Ms Mitchell says.

Mr Williams says last year 109 Hawkes Bay youngsters referred to the programme from the Probation Service successfully gained either a restricted or full drivers licence which enabled them to improve their life outcomes, including many finding a job.

“With the $100,000 boost from the Community Road Safety Fund and our partnership arrangement with the Transport Agency for 2016, I’m hoping that we can improve on last year’s numbers, we will certainly be aiming to achieve this and the money will go a long way to ensuring the programmes continued success.

 “When a youngster with a background of disadvantage and repeated offending gets a learner’s, restricted or full driver licence because our programme has helped them to read and write, that’s a passport out of the justice system and part of joining normal society.”

Mr Williams says it may also mean these young people will have less reliance on the welfare and benefit system which is a win-win for everyone, most importantly saving money for the New Zealander taxpayer.

Under the collaborative arrangement, the Howard League will work with the Hawkes Bay Probation Service to identify learner drivers who have literacy and other life challenges to participate in driver and literacy programmes run from centres in Napier, Hastings and Flaxmere.

Qualifying candidates will receive one on one classroom based learning sessions. At six learners a day for 3 days a week over 41 weeks of the 12 month term of the arrangement, a minimum of at least 100 passes for licence tests is expected to be achieved, Mr Williams says.

“The programme aims to ensure these youngsters are well prepared to sit their learner, restricted or full driving tests at the end of the tuition period, and can become safe and confident drivers on our roads.”

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