“We should be concerned that so many young people who leave care subsequently become homeless”

CEO Social Justice Blog

The news that the unemployment rate for up in our region has soared up to 11.8 percent is a real worry.

Lack of job opportunities will be a challenge for all, and particularly for those young people who are homeless. On any given night Samaritans  assists over 220 homeless  in our region to find not only emergency accommodation but longer term pathways into employment and stable accommodation.

The unemployment rate for young people, when they contact us, is almost 90 percent and about one quarter have never had a paid job in their life.

Over 50 percent will have lived in a home experiencing family violence and 60 percent will have mental health issues to deal with.

Over two thirds will have formerly been in residential care or foster care and we should be concerned that so many who leave care subsequently become homeless. The 3 major reasons appear to be:

– ongoing damage caused by their birth family experience of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse

– inadequate quality of care involving numerous placements, carers, schools and case workers

– total lack of family and community support when they leave care at age 14-18.

Most children growing up in modern day Australia receive ongoing support from their parents – sometimes even stretching to age 30 and beyond.

However, children leaving care at 14 to 18 years of age are expected to continue their journey to adulthood quite independently.  This is unrealistic and unfair in today’s world with so many hurdles and challenges for young people to circumnavigate.

We need  more opportunities like Samaritans Student Accommodation, based on the Foyer Model.  Those leaving care at age 14 to18 will need support from time to time just like those young people who have grown up living with their own parents.

I believe we should call on both Federal and State government to extend support services for care leavers to age 25 where needed. This would include :  assistance with finding somewhere affordable and appropriate to live;  a meaningful pathway to paid employment;  a mentor/support person to encourage them on their way.

Young people leaving care have had difficult start in life. Let’s give them a fair chance to overcome early disadvantages and embrace their aspirations.  You will find these aspirations are very similar to the rest of the community.