Home truths expose a calamity
SUPPORTING young people in care until they turn 21 will halve homelessness, triple education participation and reduce alcohol and drug dependency, says Anglicare WA Services director Mark Glasson.
Mr Glasson is leading the WA campaign for Home Stretch, a national initiative calling on all state governments to change legislation to protect children in State care for longer.
“What we know is that people who have been in State care with traumatised backgrounds are not equipped to live independently,” he said.
“The bottom line is the State (Government) has made the decision these young people need to be in care outside the family.
“The system of services needs to be different, to empower and support them so they can make wise decisions. They need help with education, accommodation, mental health and income support.”
St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive Susan Rooney said providing three more years of care had proved successful in the UK, US, NZ and Canada.
Ms Rooney said at least 30 per cent of young people who accessed support at Vinnies' Passages hub left State care early or had been ‘exited’ to homelessness.
She said if the Government did not take care of these young people now, it would cost the community more in the long term.
“If we have an option for young people to be supported in the right way, there would be less homeless people in the state,” she said.
“We know 50 per cent of long-term homeless people have been homeless as a young person.” THE State Government is set to trial Home Stretch in several areas for at least six months.
Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk told Community News last week service teams would be placed in districts to support children in care to the age of 21.
“I’m committing to working with Anglicare WA as the lead agency to trial how Home Stretch could work in WA and then follow the results of that trial,” she said.
“The (Children and Community Services) Act gives us the capacity to do that trial.”
Tasmania, SA and Victoria State governments have committed to investigating a change in legislation to provide formal care until the age of 21.
In August, the Auditor General released a report into the Department of Communities’ success in helping young people move out of care to independent living.
The report showed support to young people leaving care made a positive difference but there was not enough of it.
“When a young person in the care of the State turns 18, we cannot turn our back on them – to date we haven’t done enough and we can do better,” Ms McGurk said.
The Fremantle MLA is urging West Australians to consider becoming respite, emergency or full-time foster carers. There are more than 3000 registered foster carers and 5000 children in State care.
“The feedback I get from foster carers is they get back more than they put in,” Ms McGurk said.