New report shows why Budget investment is vital to keep caring beyond state care

News 9 December 2020

Wednesday 9 December 2020 – for immediate release

Significant investment for young people in the State Budget has been welcomed by the Commission for Children and Young People as it tables a report detailing the appalling outcomes for the more than 600 young people who leave state care in Victoria each year. The report of the Commission’s Keep caring inquiry was tabled in Parliament this morning.

‘Until now, successive governments have failed care leavers, with the statistics telling a shameful story about how they have been treated in this state.

‘As we note in our report, at least one third of young people become homeless within three years of leaving care, half require acute mental health services, and 70 per cent live below the poverty line. One quarter have contact with the criminal justice system.

‘We know young people are impacted by the instability of care itself, experiencing multiple placements, lack of therapeutic support and constant changes in workers throughout their time in care – that needs to change,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

The inquiry found almost two thirds of young people who leave care with poor mental health do not get the help they need, and nearly half of young people on the verge of leaving care have severed any connection with education and training by the time they leave care.

Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Justin Mohamed, noted the release of last week’s Productivity Commission report that pointed to a widening gap in Indigenous disadvantage.

‘The Productivity Commission notes the continuing over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people across child protection, out-of-home care, youth justice, and, ultimately, the adult justice system.

‘The inadequate support for Aboriginal care leavers is part of that broad and damning picture of over-representation, and this report goes directly to how the particular impacts of leaving care can be addressed.

‘One quarter of young Aboriginal people miss out on the support of an Aboriginal organisation when they leave care. We need all Aboriginal young people to be supported in their transition by Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations,’ Commissioner Mohamed said today.

Commissioner Buchanan said the unacceptable outcomes for young care leavers show why the recent Budget investment is so welcome and so vital, adding that it already addressed a number of key recommendations in the report.

Among these, the Budget has funded the universal extension of the Home Stretch program, giving all care leavers who need it access to an allowance that will support them to stay with their carers or to live independently until the age of 21.

The Better Futures support service for young care leavers has also received a significant funding boost that will improve the assistance for young care leavers in making the transition to independent living post-care.

‘While the Budget investment is unprecedented, much-needed and welcome, our report sets out a range of actions that are still needed,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

She said that while Home Stretch and Better Futures investment will improve how young people are supported after leaving care, support towards independence must begin well before young people turn 18.

‘Preparation and planning for leaving care require extensive reform. Our inquiry found that while every care leaver is required to have a leaving care plan, more than half of care leavers don’t have one.

‘Young people case-managed by Child Protection are the least likely to have a leaving care plan. We know that our child protection system is stretched and overburdened; this highlights yet again the impact on young people in state care,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

She also called for greater access to counselling for unresolved trauma, support to repair family relationships and connection to community, and programs to reconnect care leavers to education and training.

Given the high prevalence of homelessness among care leavers, she said the government’s significant Budget investment in social housing should be used to make specific allocations to care leavers – with a much greater focus on supported housing for care leavers with complex needs who aren’t yet ready to go it alone.

‘We also recommend that the state legislates for adequate post-care support. There needs to be not just an expectation, but an enforceable legal obligation to support young care leavers appropriately.

‘With the government’s investment and the implementation of our recommendations, we can enable lasting positive change in these young lives.

‘We need to empower care leavers with possibility in their lives, not further entrench disadvantage. Now might be just the moment to do that,’ Commissioner Buchanan concluded.

Commissioners Buchanan and Mohamed are available for media comment.

The Keep caring report can be downloaded from the Commission’s website. A summary of the report and an illustrated, youth-friendly guide are also available.

For media enquiries, please click here.

Related media coverage

New report shows after leaving state care in Victoria, a third of young people experience homelessness (ABC News)

A third of Victoria's young people leaving out-of-home care are homeless within three years – report (Guardian Australia)

'Appalling outcomes': youth fall into poverty, homelessness after leaving care (The Age)