Today we are celebrating good news for young people in foster and residential care. They will be offered support until the age of 21, thanks to funding announced by the Victorian State Government.
We have been pushing for this important change, both independently and with other organisations through the sector wide Home Stretch campaign.
Becoming an adult is a challenging time. The human brain does not reach full development until the age of 25. On average, young people remain at home to the age of 24, but when young people in state care turn 18, they are forced to live independently.
These young people are often highly vulnerable, with significant experience of abuse, trauma, loss and intergenerational disadvantage. Even if their carers want to continue supporting them, a lack of financial and practical assistance can make that difficult.
There are currently some support schemes in place but still too many of these young people struggle to cope independently at 18. This means that over a third are homeless within a year. Many end up unemployed, in trouble with the law, or parenting a child before they are ready to do so.
The option to remain in care will open opportunities for these young people. They will be able to finish high school, participate in further education and develop the skills they need for adult life in a safe and supportive environment.
We will work with the Department of Health and Human Services, and other care providers to make such that these extra years of care bring real benefits. They can be to support young people to continue their education, enter the workforce and develop the practical and emotional skills needed for independent living.
Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos has committed $11.6 million over five years to roll out Home Stretch in 2019. The funding covers extending care payments to foster and kinship carers. It will also be used to employ specialised workers to provide tailored support to young people.
The Liberal party has also committed to piloting a Home Stretch program for 70 young people if elected in November, but has not yet indicated that it supports full funding of this initiative.
Victoria will join Tasmania and South Australia in moving towards a better system of care for young people.