Sharp Rise in School Children Experiencing Homelessness
10 January 2018 at 4:33 pm
There has been a 13 per cent increase in school children experiencing homelessness in Victoria, which is jeopardising their education prospects, the peak body for homelessness has warned.
The Council to Homeless Persons (CHP) has revealed data that shows 10,985 Victorian school students sought support from homelessness services in 2016-17.
This is a 13 per cent increase from the 2015-16 figures of 9,713 students accessing these services, which CHP CEO Jenny Smith said makes education increasingly difficult.
“It’s hard to stay in school and get a proper education when you don’t have a stable home,” Smith said.
Of the 10,985 students experiencing homelessness, 6,246 were primary school aged. In fact, nearly half of all Victorian households experiencing homelessness include children and young people – who often present to homelessness services alone.
Smith said Australians needed to take a new approach to how they viewed homelessness.
“Homelessness isn’t just the rough sleeping we see on the street. Living in your car, hopping from couch to couch or constantly moving suburbs in seek of affordable rent is a chaotic and transient lifestyle that seriously jeopardises a young person’s schooling,” she said.
“We need to remove the barriers that prevent them achieving their full potential.”
“The transience and chaos of homelessness means that many of these children have had their education severely disrupted. Too many of these children never successfully re-engage, setting them on a path towards lifelong economic exclusion and poor health,” the submission said.
CHP wants to expand the state government’s LOOKOUT program, which is currently only available to children in out-of-home care.
The peak body said expanding the program would support 12,000 students to stay in school by supporting their families, assisting with schooling costs and providing better support to schools staff in relation to disadvantaged students.
It would also enable 17 new specialist children’s homelessness workers at homelessness services.
“This sensible investment will save taxpayers in the long run because more kids will stay in school and avoid a lifetime of poverty, unemployment and the cycle of homelessness,” Smith said.
The Victorian Minister for Housing Martin Foley told Pro Bono News that the Andrews Labor government was committed to a $2.1 billion boost in financial support for the social housing sector, to build more affordable accommodation for Victorian families at risk of homelessness.
“We never want to see a tragic situation where a young person is forced to live on the streets,” Foley said.
“Young people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable and, like all Victorians, they deserve to have a roof over their head and access to education.
“We know that breaking the cycle of homelessness is a huge challenge for our community – that’s why we have invested a record $799 million in additional homeless and housing support.”
But Smith has also called on the federal government to “step up to the plate”, by delivering affordable social housing to prevent homelessness occurring.
“To eliminate homelessness, we need the federal government to deliver a huge boost to social housing, so that vulnerable families are not forced into homelessness in the first place,” she said.