When NSW young people with a care experience turn 18, they have no option to remain in their care placement and often become homeless in the first year of transitioning from care. Leaving home shouldn’t be a one-way exit door and the community is now calling for a response from the NSW Government to the question, “Why not make it 21 in NSW?”
Since 2008, CREATE Foundation has worked tirelessly to improve the care system for young carer leavers aging out of the out-of-home care system and has pushed for a more appropriate, realistic age for young people to have access to housing and support. According to CREATE’s direct consultations with young people, over 1/3* of young people leaving care end up experiencing homelessness within the first year.
Young people have participated in sharing their uncensored lived experiences and as a result, seven jurisdictions have listened to their voices, with government going on to implement various support systems including the option for young people to have continued placement support with existing carers, or financial support for those in residential care to 21.
CREATE’s Chief Executive Officer, Ms Jacqui Reed, stated “It is unfathomable that the NSW Government remain so recalcitrant given the overwhelming evidence that has been listened to in all other jurisdictions to implement a very simple policy of providing the option for young care leavers to remain in current placements or be supported until they turn 21.”
NSW, remarkably is the odd one out, where the voices of young people have fallen on deaf ears. With the largest care population, NSW should set the example instead of trailing behind every other state and territory when it comes to reducing risk of homelessness and keeping young people with a care experience safe when they turn 18.
CREATE Foundation was curious to learn more about public opinion and with a young person with a care experience, CREATE took to the streets of Sydney to hear directly from the public. CREATE asked them to share their views on leaving care at 18, and was met with a resounding, unanimous response from the public, who say it is NOT OK for the government to jettison vulnerable young care leavers at 18.
When asked: “What does the community think about leaving care at 18?” public responses included:
“It would be scary!” and “We all know we are still pretty immature at 18 and just learning the ropes. I think 18 is too young and I was surprised to learn that only New South Wales has this at such a young age.” (female)
When asked “What do you think about extending the leaving care age to 21, like in other states and territories?” responses included:
“You have to give people the skills to eventually be able to move out on their own and be able to support themselves, and function in society.” (female)
“21 seems far more reasonable to me.” (male)
“I think  would be great and it is unbelievable as its easily measurable and I think there would be nothing but positivity that could come out of it.” (male)
CREATE has also worked alongside the NSW out-of-home care sector to gain insight and support to advocate for positive change, including The Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) which is the peak body for placement services in NSW.
ACWA’s Chief Executive Officer, Steve Kinmond stated: “Every other state has listened to the voices of young people who have made it very clear what it feels like to be removed from the government’s care once they turn 18. Report after report has shown the abject failings of the current ‘loose’ NSW arrangements to meet to the needs of young people once they leave care – and the consequences for these young people can be tragic.”
“Put simply, young people in care, who have all faced very significant trauma and instability earlier in their lives, should be given the right to know that if they desire to remain ‘in care’ until they reach 21, the NSW Government will extend their care over this critical three-year period.”
It doesn’t make sense that NSW care leavers are left with no option but to navigate the current rental shortage and lack of affordable housing, often doing so whilst trying to finish their high school education, and seek employment or study – all at the tender age of 18.
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 of young people transitioning from care to adulthood by coming together to speak up, share the voices and add hashtags #itsyourturnNSW #makeit21. https://create.org.au/make-it-21/
Read CREATE Foundation position papers on support to 21 and other key issues for young people in care https://create.org.au/position-papers/
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
Key statistics on the care sector in Australia:
- 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.
- 67% of young people in care over the age of 15 are not aware of having a leaving care plan.
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.