“What happens when I turn 18?” is what a 16 year old asked us during out National Survey for our 2018 Out-of-Home Care report. For years CREATE has been advocating to ensure that young people have the right to have a placement supported within the care system until they’re 21. For some young people this means providing support for them to stay with foster and kinship carers, whereas for other young people this may involve other types of supported accommodation. It’san issue that’s so important to us that it’s built into our 2018-2021 Strategic Plan. It’s also a key goal of the Homestretch Campaign, of which CREATE is an active member. Extending care is an important means of ensuring young people with a care experience have the same opportunities as their peers not in care, who in Australia these days often remain at home well into their twenties.
CREATE has long been concerned about some of the outcomes of young people leaving care. In a report we published in 2009, 35% of young people experienced homelessness within the first year of leaving care, 29% were unemployed and 46% of boys had been involved in the justice system.
Comparatively, extending care is also associated with better long term life outcomes. A report commissioned by Anglicare Victoria for example found that if care is extended, we can expect the probability of homelessness to be halved (from 39% down to 19.5%), while probability of pursuing further education is increased (up from 3.6% to 9%).
While most states have provisions for leaving care support, this is often discretionary and difficult for young people to navigate the processes involved. However, in the last two years we have seen more and more states take on a proactive commitment to improving outcomes for young people leaving care, such as by signing up to implement the model proposed by Homestretch. We thought we would have a look at what progress has been made towards ensuring young people have support until 21.
Last year, Tasmania was the first state to extend the leaving care age to 21, with a commitment to trialing policies for extending payments to carers, as well as increasing the number of support workers in each region to support young people navigate services to get support. Implementation is yet to commence though but watch this space!
In June last year South Australia committed to extending the leaving care age. Since then SA has implemented the Stability in Family-Based Care Program, where carers can received payments to support the young person to remain in the placement until they turn 21. Work is still needed to support young people who may not want to stay with a foster or kinship carer, but young people can access some post care support through Elm Place.
WA were the next to commit to Homestretch, and a trial has recently begun in WA, although only a small number of young people are currently part of the trial in certain parts of Perth. CREATE Young Consultants were part of the co-design of what the implementation should look like. It’s still early days but CREATE looks forward to seeing the positive outcomes from the trial, and that it gets extended to include more young people across WA.
The Victorian Government has also officially announced Homestretch, enabling about 250 young people leaving care to stay with foster or kinship carers or find alternative accommodation if they live in residential care. Victoria is also implementing their Better Futures program, which provides wrap-around, tailored support to help a young person transition to independence and achieve their goals. CREATE Young Consultants have been on a series of advisory groups, helping to shape these programs.
NSW, NT, ACT and QLD have a number of aftercare support available to young people leaving care, but have yet to sign up to the Homestretch campaign.
Young people in QLD can access the Next Step Aftercare program, delivered by several sector agencies including CREATE and Life Without Barriers. Young people can contact Next Step and access support with education, getting job ready, and finding accommodation.
If you know of a young person in NSW who needs support leaving care, they can call or email the Care Leaver line, download the app Resolve with advice on being independent, and check out the YOU website for information about their rights and information about leaving care plans. You can find out more about these things here. NSW are also working on the Foyer51 program which will provide young people aged 18-22 with a self-contained unit with communal areas and support staff from Uniting on site. This program won’t be launched until 2020 but we will keep you updated!
Since the Royal Commission, a lot of reforms have been underway in the NT, including improving the leaving care process, including clarifying in legislation that young people need leaving care planning and support should be offered until they are 25. Young people can also contact Moving On, an after care support service run by Anglicare. They can assist with providing information, referrals, and support young people with education and employment.
In the ACT, in some circumstances, carers can continue to receive payments to look after a young person until they are 21. Young people may also be eligible for help from the Housing for Young People Program, where young people can receive help from a worker to navigate the application process of getting accommodation support and other support, like education.
An easy way to find out what supports are available in your state or territory is to download our Go Your Way booklet here– there’s handy contact information at the back! Young people in QLD, SA, VIC and WA can also download the Sortli app, a pocket guide to services and support in the local area. It provides a step-by-step guide for all the important areas of a young person’s life, such as finding a place to live, looking after their health, managing a budget, finding a job, furthering their training or education, learning about the legal system and other important life skills.
CREATE would like to give a massive shout out to ALL the young people who have been involved in the long battle to extend care! It takes courage and resilience to speak up about these issues and improve the care system for all!
CREATE will continue to push for extended care to be available to all young people in out-of-home care across Australia.