Every 18-year-old with a care experience deserves the option to access support and housing to 21. New South Wales remains the only state or territory which has not increased the leaving care to 21, leaving vulnerable young people at risk.
CREATE Foundation NSW team and CREATE Young Consultants are meeting with Craig Leighton, Executive Director, NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) on September 15, 2022, to speak up and share insights about what it is like leaving care at 18 in NSW.
So, what does it really MEAN if you are exiting care at 18?
First, you need a roadmap to know where you’ll be sleeping tomorrow night. In a recent representative group meeting of young people living in the care system, CREATE heard from the group that most did not have a ‘Leaving Care Plan’ at 18.
One young woman shared her plan was only completed three days before she turned 18 and the plan lacked provision for to access to non-PBS medication, meaning she had no alternative but to pay for medication (costing $100 a week), leaving her without money for food, accommodation or transport. No parent would turn a blind eye and allow this to happen to their child – why do the NSW government allow this to continue happening to its most vulnerable young people?
This is just one example of the urgent need for change and the evidence is shown in CREATE Foundation’s ground-breaking independent consultations with young people in care, which found that 35% of young people in care have five or more caseworkers during their time in care. Further to this, 67% of young people in care over the age of 15 are not aware of having a leaving care plan.
Right now, young people experience multiple case workers during their care experience, preventing young people from building important support networks. In addition, without a leaving care plan, this means you are without a plan to access housing, supports for health – including physical, emotional (i.e. self-esteem, mental, sexual and dental), employment, education and training, financial security, social relationships and support networks, life skills (and after care skills), identity and culture, and legal matters.
Leaving care plans need to be personalised and young people need to play a role in developing the plan. Previously, the DCJ funded developed an in-house online app “Resolve” in an effort to connect young people with a care experience with services, supports and or avenues to find housing. The app has essentially been disabled and young people navigating the current online resources say it is impossible to find what they need. One young woman shared with CREATE “Looking at the website, it feels like a dead end.”
This lack of online resources simply puts more pressure on caseworkers, carers and other community professionals to find the information and share it with young people.
CREATE Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Ms Jacqui Reed, asserts that it’s time to listen to young people’s voices, face the issues and take action.
“Just imagine yourself at 18, and if you were on the brink of leaving care, that feeling of urgency is exacerbated by struggling to find the answers you are looking for on a website. What you really need is a person alongside you, to plan with you, connect you to the services and a place to live.”
“CREATE recognises the current services that are in place in NSW and feel that they are disjointed, difficult to access and offer a lot of if’s buts and maybe’s. CREATE wants DCJ to see these young people for what they are – 18 years old, vulnerable with a care experience, and facing a daunting journey in their transition to adulthood,” said Ms Reed.
“At the very least,” says Ms Reed, “DCJ must engage young people to hear what they need, and learn more about how they want information to be presented and made available to them. At the minimum, the current suite of resources and the DCJ websites need to reviewed through the lens of a young person with a lived experience of being in care. Additionally, any website or online resource should be viewed as a complementary tool to aid young people during the transition process, it is not a stand-alone solution.”
“Our research shows over 1/3* of young people leaving care become homeless within the first year. In NSW, there is an ongoing rental crisis and young people leaving care have no rental history or experience in applying. CREATE is calling for NSW to take action and make it 21 – in concert with every other state, providing young people an option to remain in care to 21.”
CREATE Foundation is the national consumer body representing the voices of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience (including kinship care, foster care and residential care). CREATE develops policy and research to report on and advocate for a better care system.
AMPLIFY THE VOICES – CREATE Foundation just launched a new online campaign to help young people transitioning from care to adulthood have their voices heard by our community coming together to speak up, share the voices and add hashtags #itsyourturnNSW #makeit21. https://create.org.au/make-it-21/
For more information please visit the CREATE website at www.create.org.au
For further comment from CREATE’s Chief Executive, Ms Jacqui Reed, and/or a young person with care experience contact Leigh White, CREATE Communications Advisor, via (m) 0431 932 122 or firstname.lastname@example.org
· 46,212 children and young people were reported in 2020-21 as living in out-of-home care across Australia (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2022).
· Young people in out-of-home care are 16 times more likely to be under a youth justice order than the general population.
· 30% of young people experience homelessness within the first year of leaving care. (McDowall, 2020).
· 38% of young people have been involved with the justice system.
· 30% of young people who have left care or preparing to leave care are unemployed.
· 36% children and young people in care do not live with any of their siblings.
· 35% of young people in care have five or more caseworkers during their time in care.
McDowall, J. J. (2018). Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards. CREATE Foundation.
McDowall, J. J. (2020). Transitioning to adulthood from out-of-home care: Independence or interdependence? CREATE Foundation.