NT vows to extend state care to 21
15 June 2021 at 4:23 pm
Queensland and New South Wales are now the only states without formal policies of care to 21 years’ old
Children in the Northern Territory’s out-of-home care system are set to have their support extended until they reach 21, following strong advocacy from the social sector.
The NT Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing Kate Worden has written a letter confirming “legislative amendments are under way” to give those in care the option to continue their living arrangements – or receive support to live independently – until the age of 21.
This decision comes on the back of extensive advocacy from The Home Stretch campaign, which has pushed for years to extend the leaving care age from 18 to 21 nationwide.
Advocates point to 2016 Deloitte research that found that extending state care from 18 to 21 would have major benefits for this vulnerable cohort, halving the homelessness rate, increasing higher education participation by 2.5 times, and reducing alcohol and drug dependence from 15.8 per cent to 2.5 per cent.
Minister Worden said the government was working with its sector partners, including CREATE Foundation and the local Home Stretch campaign, to progress these reforms before the end of the year.
CREATE Foundation CEO Jacqui Reed said it was enormously pleasing to hear Minister Warden’s commitment to improving outcomes for young care leavers.
“Our organisation provides a platform to amplify the voices of young care leavers and for many years we’ve heard the resounding call from young people for appropriate support during transition from care,” Reed said.
“After our sector’s continued, determined advocacy for increasing the age to 21, CREATE applauds the Northern Territory government’s decision to invest in tomorrow’s young adults to have the option to remain in care to 21.”
There is growing momentum across the country to extend the age of state care, with the NT government’s commitment following a similar pledge from the Victorian government last November.
Tasmania and South Australia have also committed to extending support to 21, while advocates have heard encouraging signs from the ACT government that it will do the same.
In Western Australia, 14 young people are currently participating in a trial which extends care to the age of 21.
Home Stretch chair Paul McDonald noted on Twitter that six out of eight Australian governments now had formal policies of care to 21 years, with New South Wales and Queensland the only exceptions.
Advocates are now calling on these states to follow suit.