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The Minister, in pointing out the ways that the new bureau will be able to deal with the issues affecting young people, mentions in passing his concern with the way that the previous Government dealt with youth services. I think the Minister should spell out just what he means here. He claims, by inference, that young people need services and programs which provide more opportunities for young people to be involved in sporting activities, including improved access by community groups to school facilities. That is fine; but what is the basis of this claim? What about the many young people who, for a range of reasons, cannot participate in sport? Are not their needs important? Is the Minister suggesting that only sport is a problem? What about drama, motor maintenance, chess playing, gardening, farming or debating? Are there really sufficient funds for these programs? What evidence can the Minister produce that sport is the only area that needs attention?
The Minister continues with this concern in regard to sport in schools, and again the same question must be asked: Why? Why sport above everything else that people love to spend their leisure time on? Maybe the Minister is justifiably proud of his notion of bringing together many previously separated services; but, in seeming to solve these problems, he has created new ones. Many of the points that I have touched on today illustrate the lack of analysis and thought that has gone into the changes being sought by the new Minister. I trust that some of my anxieties can be addressed and remain just anxieties, but I will not be satisfied by some vague generalisations. I would like to be assured that all the decisions that are made are soundly based on good analysis, evidence and research; not just personal experience and whims.
MS TUCKER (4.45): Mr Speaker, in discussing the new Children's and Youth Services Bureau, Mr Stefaniak repeatedly referred to the potential for better integration and coordination of services in the area of children's and youth policy. It is true that there could be better coordination of services in some areas, but it is difficult to see how simply restructuring the department will have this effect. No matter how government departments are structured, there will never be full integration unless there is the political and bureaucratic will to develop effective communication processes and a commitment to intersectoral action. The primary goal must be that service providers are assisted to do their job more effectively and consumers receive better services. It is about processes as much as structures. Regarding the new administrative arrangements more generally, it is important that an overall policy perspective is maintained on social policy issues. We will watch with interest the new Community Relations Branch in the Chief Minister's Department, to see how well it fulfils this role under its new brief.
The Minister's speech raised some interesting issues more generally on this Government's approach to policy development and consultation. Even though we keep hearing that the Government is committed to open and participative processes, people are concerned because of the radical changes in and restructuring of government departments that have taken place in the early days of this Government, with little or no consultation. The brief of the new bureau to create clear strategic directions for services, young people and their families raises questions about how the service providers and consumers will be involved in developing these strategies. Any decisions about strategic directions must be based on the needs of the target group.