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More support to stop young people becoming homeless after state care

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Young South Australians leaving state-run care homes once they become adults will be offered more financial and housing support until they turn 21 in an attempt to stop them from potentially becoming homeless.

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A report released earlier this year by national child protection advocacy group CREATE found 30 per cent of young people reported they had been homeless at some stage within the first year after leaving foster or residential care.

Thirty-seven per cent of those young people reported being homeless for six months or more.

In 2019, the South Australian Government extended foster carer payments up until a young person turns 21, in recognition that they would benefit from staying in a family-based setting into early adulthood.

But those payments don’t cover young people living in state-run residential care homes, where they are looked after by rostered carers up until the age of 18.

A new $2.7 million government-funded trial currently out for tender aims to fill that gap, offering young people leaving residential care with increased financial, housing, employment and health support.

The trial – called Next Steps – will launch in January and will initially help at least 20 young people aged from 17.5 who are at risk of homelessness and have complex needs.

The Government plans to pay a private service provider to deliver the support to the young people over three years until they turn 21.

“Moving into adulthood and independence is a huge step in any young person’s life,” Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson said.

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

“Our aspiration is that young people who participate in the Next Steps pilot will benefit from receiving these new, additional supports to help them move into adulthood with more confidence.”

A spokesperson for the Child Protection Department told InDaily that the Government already offers young people leaving residential care with a “range of assistance”, including case management and accommodation support.

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

According to government tender documents, organisations that are able to secure housing for young people by their 18th birthday will be considered more favourably.

CREATE chief executive Jacqui Reed welcomed the trial, telling InDaily it would provide opportunities for young people to transition out of care “with hope and confidence for their future”.

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

“This type of initiative really addresses the shortfalls within the system.”

Latest data from the Child Protection Department shows of the 4654 children in state care in August, 609 lived in residential care.

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

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