1492741359405 - Lack of options sees mother of mentally unwell teen paying $100 a night for motel

Lack of options sees mother of mentally unwell teen paying $100 a night for motel

A Taranaki mother shelling out $100 a night to keep a roof over her mentally unwell son’s head highlights the lack of resources which are available to help, a lawyer says.

During Oliver Luke Sawyer’s court appearance on Thursday, it was revealed his mother had been paying for him to stay in a motel since his recent arrest because he had nowhere else to go.

This comes in the same week the People’s Mental Health Report was released, which outlined ongoing concerns about the underfunding of New Zealand’s mental health system.

Sawyer used to live with his mother, but after being charged with assaulting her this month, his bail conditions now prevent him from returning to the address.  

Due to a lack of other options for the 19-year-old, who has mental health issues, his mother reached into her own pocket for a short term solution.

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Woodcock told the New Plymouth District Court the cost was becoming too much for Sawyer’s mother and she asked Judge Lynne Harrison to vary the bail to allow him back home.

Judge Harrison refused and said there was a risk of further offending should Sawyer be allowed to return.  However, she queried what supports were in place to help manage the teen’s mental health issues or offer help to his mother.

On Friday, Woodcock said Sawyer’s case highlighted the gaps in services available for vulnerable people, which included a lack of community housing options.

It was a “recurring theme” with other clients she represented in court.  

“It’s just a real lack of resources,” she said.

She said increasingly lawyers were under pressure to act more like social workers in order to try and get clients the help they needed.

“There’s definitely a sense of frustration and concern,” Woodcock said.

About 95 per cent of the 500 people involved in the People’s Mental Health Report had negative experiences of the sector and spoke of inappropriately long wait times, an over-reliance on medication and an under-resourced and stressed out workforce.

The report recommended urgent funding increases, more mental health education programmes rolled out across the country and called for an independent inquiry into the structure and provision of mental health services in New Zealand.

Vonny Roche, of the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation service in New Plymouth, said there was community based support, including accommodation options, for those with mental health issues but they were often at capacity.

One of the homeless people she worked with currently was asked to leave his community accommodation placement after he broke the rules.

She said this type of reaction often frustrated her, as often the only alternative was for them to sleep on the streets.

In March, New Plymouth lawyer Nathan Bourke said it was up to MPs not the courts to find solutions for people like his client Andrew Matehaere Wharehoka –  a homeless man banned from stepping foot onto 24 premises around the city.

Suffering from psychosis, the 29-year-old was well known to police and arrested regularly, often for trespassing.

After jailing him for seven days, Judge Chris Sygrove accepted Wharehoka had fallen through society’s cracks.

Sawyer has yet to plead to charges of drink driving, wilful damage, failing to stop and assaults with intent to injure.  

A mental health report was called for and he was remanded to reappear in court on May 18.


Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz

0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day.

Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).

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