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Home Stretch is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 21st December 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> December -> Home Stretch is In the Spotlight

In Australia over 3000 young people aged 15 to 17 years exit the child protection statutory care system annually. In 2015, 566 young Queenslanders in this age group exited care. The experiences of many Australian young people post exit point to the concern that many young people may not be ready to exit care at 18 and our collective systems are not equipped to support their needs without an ‘anchor’.

Current issues noted are that nearly two thirds of homeless young people had recently exited care. 65% of young people did not complete Year 12 and 29% were unemployed. Furthermore, 46% of young men and 22% of young women had prior involvement with the juvenile justice system. 28% were already parents themselves.

Home Stretch is a national campaign formed to call on state governments to allow the option to continue state care for young people in out-of-home care from 18 to 21 years. Home Stretch has over 1500 supporters and the support of 80 organisations. Home Stretch started as an Anglicare Victoria initiative and they continue to drive this now at a broader National level. Anglicare Victoria has sought support of all Anglicare services across Australia to champion this initiative of extending legislative support for children under state care until 21 years of age. Anglicare Central Queensland, Anglicare North Queensland and Anglicare Southern Queensland actively support this initiative.

"Young people under state care deserve support until age 21"says Soraya Shah, Anglicare Southern Queensland’s Group Manager, Children and Families.

The key issue outlined by Home Stretch is that currently there is no capacity for a young person in any State or Territory in Australia to seek the option to have care arrangements continued past 18 years, and there is no legislative requirement by any state to authorise that care. The language in most legislation is essentially discretionary. There is no mandate to support care leavers, despite States stating support for care leavers until they are 21yrs (or in some cases 25 years).

In Queensland, Section 159(2) of the Child Protection Act states that:

“… the chief executive may pay the amount decided by the chief executive towards expenses incurred in the care and maintenance of a person who has been a child in the custody or under the guardianship of the chief executive to the person or the person’s carer to help the person with the transition from being a child in care to independence.”

The policy indicates that, for children who have been on long-term Guardianship Orders:

In unforeseen circumstances, a young person who is no longer residing in the direct care of the guardian and who is no longer being supported by the guardian is eligible for transition from care casework and financial support by the department, including the provision of a support service case (if required) after the young person turns 18 years of age.”

According to Professor Phil Mendes of Monash University, post-care supports for young people 18 years and over are discretionary, not mandatory and all care and support ends, thus continuity and provision of care is disrupted. Supports pre 18 are all withdrawn and placements in out of home care legally end. Many care leavers are not developmentally ready at 18 years to live independently and there is no guarantee or mandated provision to continue to provide care if the young person seeks this. Of particular concern is that many care leavers exit directly into homelessness, and others endure ongoing housing instability. He also asserts that whilst leaving care programs offered can be helpful, they are not a substitute to continuing care.

Currently, post the implementation of the Carmody Inquiry recommendations, Queensland now offers young people support post care. Next Step After Care offers eligible young Queenslanders who have left care access to support and advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling or texting 1800 NEXT STEP (1800 639 878).

Next Step After Care services are delivered in collaboration by Life Without Barriers, CREATE Foundation, UnitingCare Community, YETI, South Burnett CTC and IFYS. The program is funded by the Queensland Government. The service aims to provide young people between the ages of 15 and 21 who have been in foster care or other out of home care arrangements, with support to build independent lives. Next Step services assist young people with various supports including access topractical advice and support with financial, housing, training, employment, health, relationships and connection and legal advice.

Anglicare Victoria, acquired philanthropic funds to commission Deloitte Access Economics to analyse the costs and benefits in Victoria and state by state, if care were continued to age 21. The following findings were noted:

  • There is a financial return to Government of between $1.40 and $2.69 for every dollar spent in the continuation of care
  • Arrests would be down from 16.3% to 10.4%
  • Homelessness would be halved, from 39% down to 19.5%
  • Hospitalisation would be decreased, from 29.2% to 19.2%
  • The chance of pursuing further education would be increased, from 3.6% to 9%, and
  • Alcohol or drug dependence would be decreased, from 15.8% to 2.5%.

The study also identified benefits across a number of other domains including: improved mental health and physical health outcomes, reduced intergenerational disadvantage, and an increase in social connectedness.

In accordance with the Home Stretch proposal, the extension of care to 21 would allow for options such as the continuation of a young person’s placement with their carer subject to the agreement of both the young person and their carer. This option would allow for the continuation of reimbursements to the carer, the offer of ongoing case work support and access to brokerage to assist the young person accessing further education and employment.

For those exiting residential care, or for those who do not wish to remain in family-based care, Home Stretch proposes that an option be provided for a continued lead tenant placement or entrance into a SIL (Supported Independent Living) model with both including the following components: case worker facilitation and support, resources to access employment, education and/or training and a possible stipend to assist in meeting costs.

In 2008 both the United Kingdom and the United States conducted independent research into the viability and benefits of extending care post 18 years of age. As a result of their respective findings, both countries amended legislation to allow the option for a young person to remain in care with various supports attached. In the United Kingdom these include: continuation of the foster care agreements including financial support and participation plans for education, employment and training. Amanda Cumberland, Policy and Parliamentary Adviser at the Adolescent and Children’s Trust stated this was “…the most significant child welfare reform in the United Kingdom in a generation.”

In the United States legislation falls into three main categories: extending foster care services to age 21, allowing young people between the ages of 19-21 to voluntarily re-enter foster care and the provision of transitional or independent living assistance.

Recently New Zealand joined Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom in extending their care leaver age to 21 years. Home Stretch is determined that Australia will follow suit.

For more information on Home Stretch:

Contact: SShah@anglicaresq.org.au or

Email: info@thehomestretch.org.au

Phone (03) 9412 6133

Website: www.thehomestretch.org.au

PeakCare’s commentary

A number of options concerning the support of young people transitioning from care are flagged in the options paper, The next chapter in child protection legislation for Queensland.

On 16th December 2016, PeakCare released a draft version of our response to the options paper to our Members and registered Supporters. To read PeakCare’s views about the issues and questions raised in the options paper about legislative provisions to address the support that should be provided to young people transitioning from care, you are directed to Section 4.13 of PeakCare’s draft submission (pp. 29-31).

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