Renewed Push To Extend State Care in Victoria
22 May 2018 at 5:07 pm
There has been a renewed push in Victoria to extend the age of care for foster children from 18 to 21 years, as a new survey indicated three quarters of Victorians supported the reform.
Home Stretch is an initiative led by a group of concerned organisations and individuals, which champions the extension of state care from age 18 to 21.
Advocates say they have witnessed poor outcomes for those required to leave the care system on or before they turn 18, with many becoming homeless, involved with the criminal justice system, or facing unemployment.
On Tuesday, Home Stretch supporters gathered at the Victorian State Library to mark the launch of the group’s state election campaign, encouraging political parties to promise reform of Victoria’s state care system by increasing the age of support from 18 to 21.
It comes as a new survey commissioned by Home Stretch revealed 76 per cent of Victorians supported extending the age of care for foster children to 21.
A total of 71 per cent of Victorians also agreed that supporting children leaving foster care during early adulthood would help to prevent homelessness, unemployment and a reliance on social services.
— The Home Stretch (@The_HomeStretch) May 22, 2018
Deb Tsorbaris, Victorian co-chair of Home Stretch commented that: “Young people in foster care have the potential to be leaders and role models in our community.
“It’s unrealistic to expect any young person to have everything they need organised by the time they turn 18.”
Home Stretch chair Paul McDonald told Pro Bono News these latest findings confirmed what advocates already knew.
“It’s something that we’ve always known because many people in the community are parents themselves or aunts and uncles of teenagers and we know we don’t give up the job of looking after them when they turn 18,” McDonald said.
“Yet the state care system gives up on them at the turn of their 18th birthday and provides them with no support.
“Thus we’re calling upon state governments and in particular the Victorian government in the lead up to the election to extend care through to 21, for those young people who are not ready to go.”
Data commissioned by Deloitte Access Economics in 2016 found that Victoria would derive a financial return between $1.84 and $2.53 for every dollar invested into extending state care.
McDonald said this highlighted how this reform would have dramatic social and economic benefits.
“If we extend home care to 21 we would halve the homelessness rate of this cohort, who in fact make up two thirds of our youth homelessness rates as it is. So that’s a very significant turnaround,” he said.
“We will double their employment engagement, so that they grow up and have good families and are working and contributing to the community.
“And also economically, for every $1 governments invest in extending care, they will receive a $2.53 return on that investment, just because of the economic benefits that flow from extending care through to 21 for this group of young people.”
“We have an archaic system that is beyond belief…There is nothing quite like the look of fear on a 14 year old’s face when they’re told about the leaving care age.” @DebTsorbaris at @The_HomeStretch election launch #makeit21 #springst pic.twitter.com/JodcVbOhul
— Liana Buchanan (@BuchananLiana) May 22, 2018
The Tasmanian and South Australian state governments have both committed to extending state care to 21 years, leading Home Stretch to ramp up their efforts in Victoria.
McDonald said he did not understand why Victoria had so far failed to follow suit.
“Why is Victoria not announcing this? We have the economic argument, we have the social argument,” he said.
“We now have three out of four Victorians saying extending care is the right thing to do.
“What is holding back Premier Andrews and [opposition leader] Matthew Guy from announcing this in the lead up to the next election?”
He added that the next Victorian government would have the care and responsibility of these foster children in their hands.
“They either want to see these young people go on and have lives of homelessness and poverty and depression. Or they want to see these young people thrive and contribute to a community and have good lives,” McDonald said.
“It’s a clear choice and there are simple reasons why they should make this simple reform; economically, socially and morally it’s the right thing to do.”