This year has been momentous in terms of CREATE’s advocacy for all state and territory governments to provide an option, whereby the provision of care can be extended to any young person until 21 years. For some young people this would include support for them to stay with foster and kinship carers, for other young people this may involve other types of supported accommodation.
For many young people in care, turning 18 is synonymous with adulthood, independence and ‘cutting the ties’ with government department ultimately responsible for their care. While most young Australians these days are staying at home and being supported by families longer, one of the most vulnerable groups of young people are expected to be completely self-sufficient at 18, with little regard given for the developmental and social impacts of their life experiences to date.
For years, CREATE has been strongly advocating for the need to extend the age of leaving care to 21, something that is already prevalent in the UK and New Zealand as well as parts of the US and Europe. While some states have provisions for extended care, this is wrapped in red tape with it being discretionary and young people often having to fill out an application or only being able to continue to stay if they are continuing education. Over the past three years CREATE has been an active member of the Home Stretch campaign, which is calling for all state and territory governments to provide an option, whereby the provision of care can be extended to any young person needing or seeking this, until 21 years, much like what is happening in any other family setting in Australia.
In February this year, in what was described as a ‘monumental decision’, the Tasmania Government became the first state to extend the out-of-home care age to 21 meaning that young people can choose to remain in their placements with carers and those in residential care at 18 continue to receive supported accommodation. Then in June, South Australia was next to follow, taking on the recommendations of the recent South Australian Child Protection Systems Royal Commission (Nyland Report) to continue to provide care for young people in foster and kinship care to the age of 21. However this change neglects those in residential care, a significant concern considering 11% of young people in South Australia are in residential care.
In the latter half of the year the Victorian Government committed to extending support for 250 care leavers over five years. While this does not allow all young people the choice, it doesn’t discriminate based on placement type. The final and most recent state to date has been Western Australia who have committed to a ‘trial’ of raising the age to 21; however the details of this are yet to be finalised.
This year has seen much progress in our efforts to extend the age of care to 21 but there is still a long way to go: CREATE will continue to be working towards the inclusivity of this arrangement for all young people in out-of-home care across Australia.
CREATE would like to recognise ALL of the young people who have contributed to the Home Stretch campaign (many of whom have completed are out Speak Up program and are CREATE Young Consultants). Your courage, strength and determination is truly awe-inspiring.
With the momentum created in 2018 and with such amazing young advocates behind it, CREATE believes the Home Stretch campaign is headed for bigger and better things in 2019 – stay tuned !