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Budget axe falls on youth programs

David Boutkan from The Family Centre has applied to be registered for the family counselling vouchers the federal government is trying to implement. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Tweed Daily News
David Boutkan from The Family Centre has applied to be registered for the family counselling vouchers the federal government is trying to implement. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Tweed Daily News Nolan Verheij-full

AN award-winning program which has helped vulnerable young people on the Tweed for 12 years has been axed as a result of Federal Budget cuts.

The government's decision to end the REALskills program is "extremely short-sighted and difficult to understand", said David Boutkan, head of The Family Centre, which runs it.

Another program, Youth Connections, has also been wound up as a result of federal cuts, a decision Tweed Greens candidate Dawn Walker said would have "damaging fallout for our local youth".

REALskills was "a classic example" of how a modest investment in early intervention could deliver high levels of social value to a community, Mr Boutkan said.

In the long run, it had saved governments money by reducing the burden on "downstream" health, policing, justice, child protection, youth homelessness and intensive family support services, he said.

The REALskills High Schools program took out the top award for best community group or team at the Northern Rivers Community Sector Awards Night in November.

It provides a unique blend of universal education and training and targeted support in school communities, Mr Boutkan said.

The early intervention approach addresses domestic and family violence, respectful relationships and alcohol and drug use.

It had well-established community networks, high levels of volunteer participation and own-ership and the solid support of all the principals and staff of local public high schools, Mr Boutkan said.



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