More support to prevent young people from becoming homeless after state care

Young South Australians who leave state-run care homes once they reach adulthood are being offered increased financial and housing support until they turn 21 in an effort to avoid potentially becoming homeless.

A report released earlier this year by CREATE, the national child protection advocacy group, found that 30 percent of young people reported having been homeless at some point in the first year after leaving foster or residential care.

Thirty-seven percent of those young people said they had been homeless for six months or more.

In 2019, the South Australian government extended payments for foster carers to a young person turning 21, recognizing that they would benefit from staying in a family environment into early adulthood.

But those payments don’t cover the young people who live in state-run nursing homes, where they are cared for by scheduled carers until they are 18.

A new $2.7 million government-funded trial currently under tender aims to fill that gap by providing more financial support, housing, employment and health support for young people leaving residential care.

The trial, called Next Steps, will start in January and will initially help at least 20 young people from the age of 17.5 who are at risk of becoming homeless and have complex needs.

The government plans to pay a private service provider to support the young people for three years until they are 21.

“The step to adulthood and independence is a huge step in the life of any young person,” said Secretary of Child Protection Rachel Sanderson.

“Young people leaving care often face this major change in their lives without family support and additional barriers due to trauma they experienced in their early years.

“Our ambition is that young people participating in the Next Steps pilot will benefit from receiving this new, additional support to help them move into adulthood with more confidence.”

That says a spokesperson for child protection InDaily that the government already offers a “provision of assistance” to young people who come from a residential care center, including case management and housing support.

The spokesperson said the Next Steps pilot builds on the support already provided.

According to government tender documents, organizations that can get a home for young people before the age of 18 will be assessed more favorably.

CREATE CEO Jacqui Reed welcomed the process, saying: InDaily it would provide opportunities for young people to step out of care “with hope and confidence for their future”.

“There is a huge gap in support for young care leavers and this often leads to poor outcomes,” she said.

“These types of initiatives really address the shortcomings within the system.”

The latest child protection records show that of the 4,654 children in state care, 609 were living in a home in August.

The number of children in residential care has increased by just under 200 as of June 2020.

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