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Stitch in time . . . Adult Community Education (Ace) tutor Shona Bain supports offenders completing community work by teaching them life skills, including sewing and cooking. PHOTO: ALEXIA JOHNSTON

ALEXIA.JOHNSTON
@alliedpress.co.nz

An attempt to stop offenders falling through the cracks is having success in Central Otago.

The Department of Corrections is channelling some young offenders into a Reap life-skills programme, which has proved a success, Adult Community Education (Ace) tutor Shona Bain, of Central Otago Reap, says.

The programme aims to help participants develop and extend their range of skills and knowledge.

A Cromwell man who has completed the programme said that he was pleased he did it.

It had taught him how to grow and prepare his own food and allowed him to complete a first aid course – life skills he would not have learned had he performed typical community work duties.

“It’s awesome,” he said.

Before he started the course he was buying takeaway meals every night, he said.

The course had taught him cooking his own meals was a cheaper and healthier option.

The man was sentenced to community work after committing various driving-related offences.

Doing the course also meant he had been able to complete his community work hours at a faster rate than if he was doing typical community work on a Saturday, he said.

“What I find with community work is if you want to do the hours, you can’t.

“If you want to get ahead in life you can’t – you are stopped. That’s buggering up a lot of people.”

He hoped the course would eventually be extended to include other people, such as those on benefits.

“I think that people on the dole should be coming to a course like this at least two days a week, instead of sitting at home doing nothing.”

Mrs Bain said the course, which has been offered in Alexandra for the past three years, had grown in popularity, and was extended to Cromwell, Ranfurly and Wanaka last winter.

The programme’s success in those towns meant it would be offered over the same 18-week period this year, and would continue to be offered in Alexandra throughout the year.

Skills and subjects covered on the course were flexible to suit the needs of participants, Mrs Bain said.

“We get them involved with budget advice, we teach them how to cook from scratch, we embed a lot of numeracy and literacy into their work [and] we teach them how to grow their own food and how to sew.”

One participant used the course to work towards his heavy truck licence.

“As a result, he now has full-time work [but] was unemployed at the time [of the course].”

Another participant started her own business as a result of the skills she learned at Ace.

“She had a whole pile of debt that she needed to get rid of and this course gave her the opportunity to research how to start a small business,” Mrs Bain said.

“With the support and encouragement, away she went. She’s almost debt-free now.”

A “significant percentage” of participants went on to further education and “99.99% we do not see again, which means they have been really successful”.