Home truths ex­pose a calamity

Cockburn Gazette - - NEWS -

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.

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