7 Reasons Why State Care Should Be Extended to 21

By April 9, 2018News

1. YOUTH HOMELESSNESS IS SKYROCKETING

In the 5 years between the 2011 and 2016 Census, youth homelessness (18-24) has increased a staggering 46% to 27,680. In unaffordability hot-spots like NSW, it has increased by 117% and has even increased in states like Tasmania where the overall rate of homelessness is down. The two biggest reasons young people become homeless is due to family violence, or existing state care. 

2. YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVING CARE ARE AT HIGHER RISK

Of the 27,680  young people experiencing homelessness, we know that more than half of those are likely to be care leavers. 35% of all 18-year-olds leaving care are homeless in the first year of independence – a clear sign that terminating state support at 18 is letting young people down.

3. STATE SUPPORT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVING CARE ENDS AT 18

Many care leavers transition to independence without major hiccups, but most are really struggling. 46% of boys were involved in the juvenile justice system, usually for petty crime, rough sleeping or other minor issues which can escalate if these boys aren’t caught early with the right support.

4. LEFT OUT OF THE JOB MARKET

The unemployment rate for young people is already pretty bad, sitting at 13% nationally and as high as 67.1% in regions like outback QLD. For youth exiting care 29% were experiencing unemployment. Without family or state support, young people are left to fend for themselves in a casualised job market that increasingly discriminates against young people trying to get ahead.

5. YOUNG WOMEN LEAVING CARE ARE LIKELY TO FALL PREGNANT

41% of girls leaving care were pregnant during their adolescence. The reasons for this are complex and can include missing out on mainstream sex and relationship education due to placement moves, a history of trauma and abuse, mental health problems, and the lack of a supportive adult to guide them. The failure to adequately support these vulnerable young women at this critical time often means their children will end up in care too.

6. POOR MENTAL HEALTH OUTCOMES

43% – 65% of care leavers have poor mental health outcomes (including depression, Anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks and sleep disorders). Childhood experiences of trauma and neglect can have complex, long-term effects on psychological health and wellbeing. Without family or state support, these young people are often left to negotiate these complex issues alone.

7. THE CASE FOR MAKING IT 21

The evidence is also there to show that extending support until 21. The UK and US faced similar issues with kids leaving care and struggling to keep their heads above water. In both countries, young people have higher rates of education completion, employment, secure housing and less of the bad stuff. Not only that, but the states that adopted the policy received a net return on every dollar invested. Here in Australia, it is estimated every dollar invested in supporting people in care until 21 would bring a net return of 0.84 cents.

WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE?

In 2013 and 2015, StreetSmart helped seed fund the Legal Pod program in QLD and is supporting the initiative in Victoria this April. The Legal Pod has shown incredible success by providing long-term, personalised and timely support. The QLD project was able to prevent homelessness for every young person they engaged.

Despite proving to be a lifeline for vulnerable young people, the QLD government did not renew core funding in 2017 leaving 350 deeply disadvantaged youth with nowhere else to go.

While QLD young people have been left out, Victoria has provided base funding to kick off the initiative.  The team at Youth Law are based in Melbourne, and we are #StreetFunding outreach services to ensure that young people in outer suburban and regional areas aren’t left behind.

The merry-go-round of insecure government funding crushes many important, innovative and life-saving programs. When the moral case, and the economic case stack up – there is no good reason to not support projects that save lives and change the rules to #MakeIt21

You can be part of the change by getting involved with our StreetFunder project of the Month, which is supporting Youth Law’s Legal Pod for care leavers. Or you can share this article with the hashtag #MakeIt21.

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