Young People “Falling Through the Service Gaps” - Report
30 April 2013 at 9:36 am
A growing number of Victorian young people are at risk of falling through gaps in services as support agencies and schools struggle to deal with the rise in vulnerable young people, according to a major new report.
The report from the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) and the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) warns that critical service gaps are placing young people at significant risk of facing mental health issues, family violence, disengagement from education, abuse and neglect, drug and alcohol issues, homelessness, and involvement in the youth justice system.
“The Building the Scaffolding report surveyed 213 community, school and government service providers and considers how supports can be strengthened to promote better outcomes for all young Victorians. It is the most comprehensive survey of the sector in recent years,” the report said.
“The report shows that without local support, those children and young people most in need often miss out on assistance, and a lack of timely support can result in the escalation of problems and lead to life-long disadvantage.
“Also of concern, and noted by many community sector workers, was a decrease in generalist services for young people who do not meet specialist service criteria but still require support.”
“It is alarming that despite continued warnings and widespread understanding of the importance of getting a positive start in life, there are still so many children and young people at risk of being left behind in Victoria,” Carolyn Atkins, Acting CEO of VCOSS said.
“We are particularly concerned that there is a distinct lack of services and responses through schools and community sector organisations for vulnerable 8-12 year-olds, which risks exposing an entire generation to lifelong disadvantage.
“Children in these ‘middle years’ are liable to fall through these gaps during a critical time in their development. As the transition between primary and secondary school occurs at this age, middle years children can drift away from school and are at risk of disengaging from education entirely.
“It is also concerning that more children in this age group are experiencing health and wellbeing issues that have traditionally been associated with older ‘teens’. Yet the current service system is not set up to work with this age group as youth workers are trained to work with young people aged 12-25 and there is a significant gap in funding for ‘middle years’ programs,’ Atkins said.
The report also warns that a lack of accommodation for at-risk young people is creating a new generation of homeless young people in Victoria.
“Stable housing is one of the most important foundations in a young person’s life, but too many young people cannot access crisis accommodation or transitional housing,” CEO of YACVic Georgie Ferrari said.
“Lack of access to stable housing exacerbates other problems, putting young people at risk of violence, worsening mental health problems, reduced engagement with school and involvement in the criminal justice system.”
- More than 70% of surveyed youth service providers indicate demand for youth services exceeds supply in Victoria.
- Just 8% of surveyed organisations have specific policies or strategies for young people aged 8-12, despite almost 70% indicating a specific need for ‘middle years’ services.
- Service gaps mean young people often miss out on timely, accessible support.
- Funding models are overly prescriptive and exclude young people by imposing age and eligibility criteria.
· State-wide, there are critical gaps in:
- Specialist services, particularly in flexible education options, youth mental health services, housing, and support for young people with disabilities;
- Policies and services for the ‘middle years’, children aged 8–12 years, which means they often go unsupported at this critical time, including the transition from primary to secondary school;
- The availability of generalist youth support services; and,
- Public transport options, particularly in outer metropolitan, rural and regional areas.
VCOSS and YACVic recommend systemic reforms to strengthen supports for children and young people. These include:
1. Developing a life course approach to policy and program development
2. Developing more effective local, regional and state service planning, development and governance
3. Strengthening early intervention support through effective education and community sector organisation partnerships
4. Aligning funding models with policy frameworks
5. Building the capacity of the workforce that supports young people
6. Developing tools to better measure outcomes for children and young people
Statistics on young people & disadvantage
- Approximately 10% of Victorian young people aged 15-19 years are not in education, training or employment
- Some parts of Melbourne have a youth disengagement rate over 30%
- On any given night, there are almost 10,000 young people under the age of 24 experiencing homelessness in Victoria
- 43% of people accessing support from homelessness agencies across Australia in 2011-12 were aged under 24
- One in five young people don’t have anyone to turn to for advice and support.
- Less than 1% of listed rental housing in Melbourne is affordable and appropriate for single young people on Newstart and Youth Allowance
The full report is available on the VCOSS website.