Paul writes to The Age
Letter to The Age Editor 14 May 2019 in in response to the latest research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
New research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies released yesterday (Tuesday, 14th May), shows that 43 per cent of people aged 20 to 24 are choosing to live in their family homes. For a number of reasons, including cost of housing and security of employment, young people feel they are not yet ready to fully ‘spread their wings’ and embrace the pressures of independence.
Now, let’s turn our thoughts to the young people in our community that don’t have the option to stay at home and ‘having a soft place to fall’ is a unrealistic luxury. Children who are in State care are currently forced into living independently as soon as they turn 18.
At 18, the State withdraws all formal support to a child; including case workers, counselling services and benefits for foster and kinship carers. It is little wonder 18 to 21-year-olds from out-of-home care have shockingly high rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, pregnancies and run-ins with the law.
Last month, Minister for Child Protection, Luke Donnellan, officially launched the ‘Home Stretch’ program, which will extend support for 250 young people in foster and residential care to the age of 21 over the next five years. Lucky for those selected as part of the program, this will be life changing. But there are a remaining 750 per year in Victoria that also need this luck.
International research shows that extending the leaving age of care to 21 will double educational engagement, halve homelessness and considerably reduce mental illness, drug dependence and hospitalisation for care leavers.
The State may not be the natural parent, but parent it is for those in its care. Extending the option of care to 21 for all young people gives them their own ‘soft place to fall’ on their journey to independence.