Hot on the heels of the public launch of Queensland’s Home Stretch Campaign in Brisbane on the 28th November, the Palaszczuk Government has announced a significant boost in initiatives to support young people leaving care. These initiatives that have been brought together under an expanded Next Steps Plus program, will aim to ensure that young people leaving care receive additional support into housing, education, and employment.
In announcing the new initiatives, Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said the Next Steps Plus program would build on the support currently given to young adults after they leave statutory care up to the age of 25 to access a range of government services and programs aimed at supporting them to achieve independence, along with individualised support.
“There are more than 500 young people in care each year who turn 18, and supporting those young people after they leave care with things like housing support, training and skills, and help to find employment is a high priority for us,” she said.
“That’s why we amended the Child Protection Act to make sure that we start planning that transition to adulthood for every young person in care from the age of 15, and we keep supporting them after they leave care right up to the age of 25.”
Minister Farmer said initiatives to support young adults to achieve independence had been developed across government, including education and training, employment, and housing initiatives, along with additional financial support.
“We’ve extended carer allowances to the age of 19, which is one way we are supporting young people to transition to adulthood by making sure they can finish high school and not feel they have to do it all on their own from the moment they turn 18.
“But it’s also critical we provide a range of supports to help young people transition at their own pace – because not every young person will want to stay living with their carers.”
Minister Farmer noted that the CREATE Foundation is currently undertaking research to evaluate what kind of supports young people need to successfully transition to independence. She commented on the importance of these services being informed by what young people with a lived experience of being in care have to say about their needs, in preference to relying on “a bunch of adults telling them what we think they need”.
The range of initiatives to support young people transition to independence include:
- Programs delivered through Education Queensland to help young people engage with education and training
- Free TAFE for Year 12 school leavers across 139 high demand industries
- The Nurse Navigators program, which supports young people in care to access priority healthcare
- Mental health initiatives focusing on young people, including initiatives to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
- Access to women’s health and wellbeing programs for young women exiting care
- Improved housing solutions and pathways for young people, including Youth Foyers to support at risk young people
- The Queensland Youth Partnerships Initiative, working with corporate and community partners to provide opportunities to young people leaving care, and
- Skilling Queenslanders for Work programs aimed at supporting young people.
Underpinned by an investment of $4.8 million each year, plans are now in place for Next Step Plus to commence in early 2020. Tenders are now open for non-government providers to deliver the redesigned program. For more information or to apply, click here.
PeakCare welcomes the State Government’s announcement. We especially welcome the whole-of-government approach being adopted in creating initiatives that run across education and training, employment, and housing in addition to child safety. The opportunity for non-government organisations to become part of this collaboration of multiple agencies by tendering to deliver services that fall under the umbrella of Next Steps Plus is also welcomed.
PeakCare perceives that Next Steps Plus serves as another significant step in supporting young people in their transition to adulthood that builds on the Government’s earlier commitment to extend the payments made to foster and kinship carers until young people in their care reach 19 years of age. The Home Stretch Campaign argues the case for further extending these payments until young people reach 21 years of age. The point made by Minister Farmer that “not every young person will want to stay living with their carers” is fully acknowledged, and it is appreciated that the Next Steps Plus program is intended to benefit not only young people who may remain living with their foster or kinship carers, but also those who choose to leave their care or who have been living in residential care or had no fixed place of abode.
The Home Stretch Campaign does not wish to make any support on offer to young people contingent upon them remaining in foster care or, in any way, compel young people to remain living with their carers especially if, for all kinds of complex reasons, they have not had a positive experience of foster care.
However, for many young people who have come to enjoy stable, loving and trusting relationships with their carers, continuation of the small allowance paid to foster and kinship carers can often make the difference between these young people being able to engage in tertiary study or forego their ambitions, and/or in being able to remain in or leave the place they call home. If home is where the heart is and their hearts are telling them to stay, we should be doing all that we can to let them.
PeakCare congratulates the State Government on taking another important step in the journey towards supporting young people in their transition to adulthood. We look forward to further dialogue with the Government about continuing this journey by further extending payments to foster and kinship carers until young people in their care turn 21.
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