Funding Cuts Block Path for at Risk Youth

Dignity for Disability’s candidate for Little Para, Scott Whelan, says unexpected and unjustified cuts to government funding of Barkuma’s successful Better Pathways program, which assists students with disability and disadvantage who are disengaged from school, defies logic and will result in poorer, more expensive outcomes.

“Since its inception in 2010, Better Pathways has assisted 410 students across 23 schools, resulting in an 85% increase in the regular attendance of school,” said Scott Whelan.

Now, funding for the program has been cut from 1.8 million dollars, to a paltry $850 000, meaning it will only be able to cater to 274 students per year, with skeleton staff.

Mr Whelan said reviews show that the program has also greatly helped students’ self-esteem and their transition beyond school to further education and employment.

“Better Pathways operates in areas such as Playford, Port Adelaide/Enfield and Port Augusta;  areas that are home to a high proportion of already disenfranchised students who sometimes do not access the school curriculum due to disability and related challenges.

“I understand from meetings I have had with people involved in the program that young people and families are deeply concerned about the impact that cuts to the program would have on their futures.”

“All young people need and deserve positive, non-judgmental guidance based on their aspirations and potential, and as an educator myself, I understand the consequences of losing that.  Without the steady, ongoing connection to school and society that programs like Better Pathways give these young people, they face difficulty in many areas of life like obtaining gainful employment, and staying drug free. Maintaining the important investment in Better Pathways now will spare government costly intervention down the track.

Mr Whelan said that one of the most concerning features of the funding cuts is that to date, no clear explanation has been given for them.

“The program has enjoyed proven success. Not one, but two reviews conducted (one by a reputable non-government body) reinforced the fact that the program has been benefiting a section of the community that previously lacked the type of support that Better Pathways provides.  Better Pathways is not the tiny, little-known brainchild of some hidden department; it is making a real, positive difference to hundreds of people, and they deserve a say in this.

“Dignity for Disability calls on government to restore full funding of Better Pathways. Why would a government want to cut short its own good news story?” said Mr Whelan.