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Te Hurihanga pilot: Evaluation report

Te Hurihanga (The Turning Point) is a Ministry of Justice response to the problem of youth offending. This evaluation report provides the Ministry of Justice with findings from a two-year evaluation that began late June 2007 and was completed in July 2009.

Prepared for the Ministry of Justice by Julie Warren with Lydia Fraser, Centre for Research, Evaluation and Social Assessment (CRESA)

See the full PDF report: Te Hurihanga Pilot: Evaluation Report [PDF 1,580Kb]

Executive Summary


This evaluation report provides the Ministry of Justice with findings from a two-year evaluation that began late June 2007 and was completed in July 2009.

Te Hurihanga (The Turning Point) is a Ministry of Justice response to the problem of youth offending. It is a three-year pilot that reflects concerns about trends in youth offending and lack of suitable options open to the judiciary when dealing with some young offenders. The focus of this programme is to encourage young people to turn their lives around. It is a nine to eighteen month therapeutic programme for young males (aged 14 to 16 years at entry) who have appeared before the courts and who live within the Hamilton/Waikato region. The three-phased programme aims to: reduce re-offending; hold young people accountable for their offending; and provide tailored, specialist support to young people and their whaanau/families so they can make positive choices rather then continue on current (offending) pathways.

The therapeutic, residential programme is bicultural and community-focused. It is designed to be delivered in a context of care, aroha, manaakitanga, wairuatanga and whanaungatanga.

The therapeutic framework within which staff carry out their prescribed roles is structured around the following treatment models:

  • Risk, Needs, Responsivity Model
  • The Good Lives Model: Adapted to Adolescents 
  • Psycho-Educational Intervention and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
  • Behaviour Theory and Therapy (Based Upon Operant Learning Principles)
  • Relapse Prevention Model
  • Parenting and Family Therapy Interventions 
  • Multi-Systemic Therapy Model and, in the future
  • Functional Family Therapy.

Evaluation findings

In general, the programme’s referral and admission processes run smoothly. However, sometimes referral agencies experienced difficulties getting the young people and/or their families/whaanau to agree to participate in a programme that could take eighteen months to complete. Also, some effort is needed on the part of the programme providers to ensure that Te Hurihanga remains ‘at the front of the mind’ of referral agencies as an intervention option. There is some debate about the criteria: some have argued for relaxing the criteria while others would like to see the criteria tightened up.

A steady increase in client numbers, coupled with young people progressing through the treatment phases, resulted in Phases 1 and 2 operating at almost full capacity within six months from commencement and the programme as a whole operating at almost full capacity a little over a year from commencement. A steady, but modest, increase in the number of young people in the programme is consistent with what could be expected of a well-performing pilot.

Providers have found that the flows of new entrants to Te Hurihanga and young people moving between programme phases need to be managed to maintain established routines in the residence, minimise any disruptions to established relationships and manage resources.

Young people’s progress through the three phases of the programme is outcomes-driven, rather than process-driven. The maximum duration of each phase is six months. Experience so far shows that the young people progressed through Phase 1 in around four months; that more recent participants progressed through Phase 2 in four to five months and that Phase 3 takes six months.

The cultural components of the programme are highly valued by families/whaanau, who attributed important changes in their young people’s attitudes and behaviours to the presence of the programme Kaumaatua and cultural activities.

Appreciation of the therapeutic role that the residential team plays in the overall treatment programme has increased as the programme has developed. That growing appreciation has both reflected the skills that the residential team has developed and provided a foundation for the team to further build on its skills base. The skills and commitment of the team makes it potentially one of the most skilled residential teams in the country.

The delivery of the Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) component of the programme (in Phase 3) improved after a problematic start, through the appointment of an experienced supervisor, team capacity building and the introduction of strategies to strengthen integration between the three programme phases. From late 2009 or early 2010, Functional Family Therapy (FFT) will replace MST as the treatment model for Phase 3 of the programme.

The importance of family involvement in the treatment programme is recognised in the treatment model and in the acceptance criteria. Whaanau were overwhelmingly supportive of the programme and their involvement in programme activities.

The points system is being delivered in a consistently robust way. Adaptations to the points system, aimed at increasing its strengths base and consistency and ease of application, improving its manageability, and enhancing its capacity to capture subtleties of behavioural changes, have been largely successful.

Results indicate the programme’s intermediate outcomes have been achieved for most young people. The young people themselves and their families/whaanau were generally confident about their futures. External stakeholders were also confident that young people nearing the end of the programme, and those who had completed the programme, had made positive changes.

One of the most challenging issues for the future, to maintain the achievements of the young people, is how to keep them productively occupied in the medium to long term – in school, training or work. For most of the young people, successful reintegration into mainstream schooling seems unlikely. Most had been out of the school system for a long period of time before entering the programme. So far, there seems to be considerable community and employer commitment to creating work and training opportunities.

Discussion points

The following key findings and conclusions can be drawn from the evaluation:

  • Although Te Hurihanga has effectively attracted the targeted young people, and built up referral numbers in a comparatively short period of time, there is debate about the eligibility criteria. This, coupled with some possible flattening out of referral numbers, may signal a need to reassess the entry criteria in the light of the size and characteristics of the pool of young offenders in the Hamilton area.
  • The treatment model requires skilled, experienced, committed staff members who have the professional orientation to work in a clinical and bicultural context. Given that ecological[1]  programmes like Te Hurihanga are relatively new to New Zealand, and bicultural programmes are still rare, the pool of people who already have the skills and experiences needed is very small. Nevertheless, Te Hurihanga has, over time, successfully built a competent team through its recruitment, training and supervision policies and practices.
  • Achieving positive change in young people with the offending histories typical of the Te Hurihanga entrants is extremely difficult. Results provide a consistent picture of individual improvements across the range of areas; widespread stakeholder and family/whaanau confidence in the Te Hurihanga team and the programme; and family/whaanau support for continued support and skill development. Stakeholders generally believed that Te Hurihanga is well placed to continue achieving positive outcomes for the young people although it is still too early to make any definitive judgements about achievements in the medium and long term. Monitoring of ultimate outcomes is needed in the next two years. 
  • This evaluation has shown that Youth Horizons (YHT) is competently delivering the programme. It is effectively delivering a community-based residential programme with well embedded cultural and therapeutic dimensions. The programme has established effective relationships with Maaori agencies to assist with Maaori young people, and their whaanau or caregivers. 
  • The Multi-Disciplinary Team is a key component of programme delivery. Their skills, professionalism and attention to programme capability and capacity building are respected by the range of external stakeholders.
  • There is always scope to improve practice. The providers have already made changes to the treatment model, specifically by adapting the points system and reconfiguring the culture-specific roles. 
  • The current treatment model is aligned with ecological approaches used in New Zealand and internationally. The Te Hurihanga team, supported by the wider Youth Horizons Trust infrastructure, has the necessary foundations, including practice ideals, professional acumen, experience and support from stakeholders to continue strengthening the treatment focus. 
  • The bicultural dimensions of the programme, including the involvement of a Kaumaatua, and the work of the Whaanau Worker and Kaitakawaenga Rangatahi, are essential to family/whaanau engagement with the programme both initially and throughout each phase.
  • The perceived quality of family/whaanau responsiveness to the treatment model and their overall satisfaction with their involvement in the programme together provide a sound basis for maintaining and building on the family therapy component to the programme. 
  • There is some value in consolidating the best practice developed within the programme. Te Hurihanga has provided an opportunity to establish a team with a core set of skills and experience to address the needs of young offenders through a therapeutic, residential programme. There is considerable scope to use the team’s expertise more widely to develop best practice in services targeting high risk young people.


[1] Ecological approaches to addressing an individual's inappropriate behaviours recognise that the determinants of those behaviours are complex and multi-layered. They relate not only to an individual's characteristics but to the environments in which an individual operates: the family, their neighbourhoods, their schools and their network of friends and associates. That is, in the individual's ‘ecological system'. Ecological treatment models attempt to provide a holistic approach to adjusting not only an individual's behaviour but also the way in which the individual relates to others and the way in which others relate to the individual. MST is one of many ecological approaches, another is the Ecological Systems Theory (Brofenbrenner, 1979).


Full PDF report:

PDF document icon Te Hurihanga Pilot. Evaluation Report.pdf — PDF document, 1595 kB (1633949 bytes)