Extension of out-of-home care to age 21 to prevent ACT homeless

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Youth homelessness on the streets.

A FEAR that teenagers unable to live with their families could “end up homeless, jailed or as new parents” within 12 months of leaving out-of-home care prompted accommodation be lifted and apply to 21 year-olds needing the support network.

A motion that was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (May 11) had called on the ACT government to establish a taskforce to review improved data collection to track outcomes for care leavers and to investigate best possible reforms from around the world.

The changes would allow 18-year-olds to opt-in and continue care for a further three years.

A series of studies suggests on average, care leavers that are forced out of accommodation aged 18 have experienced below average outcomes on education, employment and health outcomes that extends to mental health.

Almost two-thirds of the nation’s homeless youth, according to recent Swinburne University research, are those who have left out-of-home care in their teens.

The ACT does have one of the lowest number of carers in Australia after last available data from 2018 had indicated there were just 42 young people in accommodation.

About 30 per cent in accommodation that have been removed from their birth families are either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders.

The private member’s motion from Canberra Liberal spokesperson for Families, Youth and Community Services, Elizabeth Kikkert, moved to formally extend out-of-home care to 21.

“The ACT government has provided some additional supports to care leavers since 2012, which is good, but it’s not yet good enough,” Ms Kikkert said.

The government accepted the intention of Ms Kikkert, but rejected the need for a taskforce on the premise that work on A Step Up For Our Kids strategy has already got “underway”.

Limited data collection that included feedback from carers that left accommodation from 18 did get a government commitment on the floor to improve their research and report back on the process in July of next year.

Minister for Families and Community Services, Rachel Stephen-Smith, while addressing Ms Kikkert’s motion made an amendment that young people from 18 to 21 will receive ongoing support.

“That change of a presumption it will continue changes the conversation that case workers are having with young people as they plan the transition from out of home care towards an independence,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

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