YOUNGER PEOPLE IN RESIDENTIAL AGED CARE PROGRAM

Ms Barham to the Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra representing the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services—

  1. How many people under fifty years of age are permanently living in a residential aged care facility in New South Wales?
  2. How many people under fifty years of age living in a residential aged care facility have been transferred to more appropriate accommodation under the Younger People in Residential Aged Care Program?
  3. How many young people with a disability have been diverted from entering a residential aged care facility under the Younger People in Residential Aged Care Program?

 

Answer—

  1. According to Australian Government data as at April 2011, there were 283 people aged under 50 years permanently living in a residential aged care facility in New South Wales.
  2. A total of 119 people aged under fifty years living in residential aged care facilities will be transferred to more appropriate accommodation under the NSW Younger People in Residential Aged Care Program. As at 8 June 2011:
    • 46 people aged under fifty have been supported to transfer from a residential aged care facility back into their homes or into supported accommodation under the Program;
    • an additional 40 people are in the process of transitioning out of a residential aged care facility and into the community; and
    • transition arrangements for an additional 33 people are currently being finalised.
  3. As at 8 June 2011, 113 younger people with a disability have been diverted from entering a residential aged care facility under the NSW Younger People in Residential Aged Care Program.

LIBRARY AMENDMENT BILL 2011 QoN

Ms Barham to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Hunter, and Vice-President of the Executive Council representing the Minister for Tourism Major Events Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts—

  1. Did the State Library of NSW provide advice to the Minister for the Arts or the Department on the recently passed Library Amendment Bill 2011?
  2. if so, what advice was given?

 

Answer—

  1. Yes.
  2. The State Library of NSW was consulted in the preparation of the Bill and supported the proposal.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT EXPENDITURE SCHEME QoN

Ms Barham to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Hunter, and Vice-President of the Executive Council representing the Minister for Tourism Major Events Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts—

  1. Has the Community Development and Support Expenditure (CDSE) Scheme Local Committee been established in every local government area where the category 1 CDSE liability for all participating clubs exceeds $30,000?
  2. How much has been expended on CDSE projects in the 2010⁄11 financial year to date?
  3. Does the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority provide annual reports on expenditure made under the CDSE scheme?
  4. How can members of the public access information on programs funded under the CDSE scheme?
  5. Which programs were funded under category 1 and 2 CDSE in the 2009⁄10 financial year? Please provide a list of all programs.
    1. Has the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority ever requested to see the minutes of a CDSE Scheme Local Committee?
    2. If so, under what circumstances have requests been made?

 

Answer—

  1. The CDSE Scheme Guidelines require CDSE local committees to be established in each local government area where the total CDSE Category 1 liability of local qualifying clubs is in excess of $30,000 in the tax year. There is no requirement for the Department of Trade and Investment to keep of a list of the local committees that have been established. ClubsNSW has this information on its website.
  2. Clubs that participate in the CDSE Scheme must submit their annual returns to the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority outlining their CDSE Expenditure by 7 September each year, one week after the end of the gaming machine tax year. The gaming machine tax year is from 1 September to 31 August. Therefore, expenditure figures for the 2010⁄11 tax year are not yet available. 
    For the gaming machine tax year ended 31 August 2010, registered clubs in NSW expended $63.5 million on projects and services under the CDSE Scheme, although only $38.2 could be claimed as a rebate under the scheme.
  3. Information about expenditure made under the CDSE Scheme is included in the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority’s annual report.
  4. and (5) There are legal restrictions imposed under the Gaming Machine Tax Act 2001 on the disclosure of gaming machine revenue and tax details. These restrictions apply to information about CDSE expenditure provided to the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority by registered clubs for the purposes of claiming a gaming machine tax rebate under the scheme. The Gaming Machine Tax Act prevents information relating to an individual club’s expenditure being released to the public, although clubs can choose to provide this information themselves. 
    (6) No.

EQUAL REMUNERATION CASE

Ms Barham to the Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra—

  1. In paragraph 10 of the Minister for Finance and Service’s submission to the Equal Remuneration Case Fair Work Australia, the Minister states the Government’s policy response to funding cost increases associated with the case would be cutting expenditure on existing government services. Will the Government fund pay equity from Stronger Together II, Keep Them Safe and Brighter Futures budgets?
  2. Are funding budgets for Stronger Together II, Keep Them Safe and Brighter Futures quarantined?

 

Answer—

On 16 May 2011, the Full Bench of Fair Work Australia handed down an interim decision on the first application for an equal remuneration order under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Fair Work Australia has invited further submissions from interested parties on this issue. Further hearings will be held before Fair Work Australia on 8, 9 and 10 August 2011. The Government is currently considering whether it will make a further submission. If so, it will be due 21 July 2011.

The Government will be in a better position to provide informed advice in relation to the issues made by Ms Barham following any final decision of the tribunal.

SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES PACKAGE

Ms Barham to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Hunter, and Vice-President of the Executive Council representing the Premier, and Minister for Western Sydney—

  1. In regard to the priorities established in the Federal Government’s $230 million ‘Sustainable Australia – Sustainable Communities package’:
    1. Considering that population growth in non-metropolitan coastal areas has seen an increase from 4.9 million to 6.8 million people with an average rate of more than 146,000 people a year, is there sufficient focus on regional infrastructure development for New South Wales in this package?
    2. If not, what will the Government do?
  2. What role will the Government play in the Sustainable Regional Development Program which will support strategic assessments under national environmental law in up to seven additional regional and coastal growth areas?
  3. Which regional and coastal growth areas in New South Wales will be assessed under this program?

 

Answer—

The Government is taking an active role in developing a whole-of-government approach to regional infrastructure development. For example, Infrastructure NSW is being established as part of the Government’s 100 Day Action Plan to develop strategic infrastructure planning for NSW.

The Government is committed to engaging with the Commonwealth on funding and delivering optimal infrastructure outcomes for Regional NSW, including through the assessment and allocation of funds under the Federal Government’s “Sustainable Australia-Sustainable Communities’ package.

Homelessness Week

National Homelessness Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness across the community of issues surrounding homelessness and to provide activities and services for those working in the homelessness sector and those affected by homelessness. We are all aware of the public and tragic face of homelessness. We all pass the huddled figures in our streets every day—almost literally on our doorstep of Parliament House—curled up in sleeping bags in Martin Place or huddled on the steps of the State Library. They are just some of the estimated 3,559 people of New South Wales who sleep rough each night. National Homelessness Week is a chance for us to think about the less visible aspects of homelessness: the 10,950 people in our State who are forced to rely on family and friends for a bed each night, the 5,201 using crisis accommodation and refuges, and the 7,665 living in boarding houses on a medium-term to long-term basis

They are the harsh figures of homelessness in our State—in total at the last census in 2006, nearly 28,000 people in New South Wales were classified as homeless. But even that figure is probably an underestimate as one of the consistent challenges facing those working in the homelessness sector is the lack of reliable data. Accurate and credible figures are integral to understanding homelessness not only so we can measure the extent of the problem but also so we can also evaluate the effectiveness of services. I note this week that the Minister for Family and Community Services launched the Platform 70 Program in Woolloomooloo. I commend the Government for supporting that program which aims to provide housing and support services to 70 chronically homeless people in this area of Sydney. This concept of combining accommodation with essential support services is exactly what non-government organisations such as Mission Australia have been calling for.

On Monday Mission Australia detailed that its frontline staff spent more time helping people with mental health issues than helping people with homelessness issues. This has prompted calls for the model for shelters to be modified to incorporate the provision of essential services. This move towards shelters providing easy access to services is not new to me. I will give an example from my home Byron Bay area. In Byron Bay a house is used as a drop-in centre for homeless people. It is a joint venture of the Byron Bay Community Centre, the Salvation Army, St Vincent’s de Paul and Byron Shire Council. The cottage provides a shelter, the safe storage of personal belongings and access to a variety of services. It is a case of the service providers coming to those in need rather than the expectation that those people make their way to the disbursed services in the area. This example could be replicated across the State, and I would welcome the opportunity to speak with other members about how it can be implemented while we await the long-term program of trying to provide housing for all people in New South Wales.

This move towards a coordinated and person-centred approach to homelessness is completely consistent with priority 6 of the New South Wales Homelessness Action Plan to streamline access to crisis accommodation and specialist homelessness services. This State Action Plan, named “A Way Home”, was released by the State Government in 2009 and lays out some ambitious targets, namely a reduction of 7 per cent in the overall level of homelessness in New South Wales by 2013, a reduction of 25 per cent in the number of people sleeping rough in New South Wales by 2013 and a reduction of one-third in the number of Aboriginal people that are homeless in New South Wales by 2013. These targets are commendable and the strategies outlined to meet them centre around three key approaches: preventing people from being at risk, responding quickly and effectively to homelessness when it occurs, and ensuring people who have been homeless do not become homeless again.

There are many reasons why people find themselves in a position of homelessness—domestic violence, family violence, financial hardship, mental illness or sometimes an unfortunate run of hard luck. For those who find themselves in such a position it is more than just having no bed or food for the night; it is a lack of security and privacy, and a profound sense of isolation and disengagement. In conclusion, I wish to mark this National Week of Homelessness by thanking the hundreds of workers across our State—both paid and volunteers—who do their best every day to assist the homeless. Their patience, compassion and dedication are to be commended.

Standing Committee on Social Issues Report

Report: Inquiry into Services Provided or funded by the Department of Ageing,
Disability and Home Care
The Hon. JAN BARHAM [5.10 p.m.]: I move:
  •  
      That this House take note of report No. 44 of the Standing Committee on Social Issues entitled “Inquiry into services provided or funded by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care”, dated November 2010.

I make a contribution to debate on the Standing Committee on Social Issues inquiry into services provided or funded by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care. I commence by acknowledging the House for supporting the referral to this committee. All parties—Labor, Liberal, The Greens, the Shooters and Fishers, and the Christian Democratic Party—saw the value of the social issues committee undertaking this inquiry. It will be an invaluable body of work as this Parliament moves forward in considering how to greatly improve disability services. I acknowledge the work of the members who sat on the committee and I note that the committee unanimously supported the report. Committee members were the Hon. Ian West, the Hon. Trevor Khan, the Hon. Greg Donnelly, the Hon. Marie Ficarra, the Hon. Helen Westwood and Dr John Kaye. I also acknowledge the committee secretariat, which has done an exceptional job in delivering this important report. I applaud the many families and people with disabilities who made submissions to the inquiry.

Sometimes users of Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care funded and provided services face further difficulties in accessing services when they raise concerns or make complaints. In the face of such fears, many still came before the committee to tell their stories—often very personal and difficult stories to share with strangers, let alone parliamentary committees. This was a very important inquiry to New South Wales and it was long overdue. The inquiry represented a broad examination of ageing and disability services in New South Wales. The inquiry was particularly pertinent, given the investigation by the Productivity Commission into disability care and support, and the potential architecture of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In New South Wales we have an opportunity to overhaul the delivery of disability services. We have a chance to ensure a greater number of people have improved access to services that enable them to live their lives more fully. This will require months and months of consultation, political and personal vision, and a commitment to acknowledge that there is no silver bullet, just people with diverse needs who want a chance to be a part of society. We must have robust debate and honesty about our priorities in New South Wales. The inquiry was in part a response to the deficiencies in our disability service. While there has been great improvement in the first five years of Stronger Together, and the funding commitment for Stronger Together II will build on this improvement, there are still holes in our crisis-driven system. Unmet and undermet need, lack of person-centred service delivery, gaps in planning and service evaluation, asymmetry in regional service delivery, and deficiencies in complaints and compliance management are all characteristic of elements in our disability services.

The 55 recommendations of this inquiry traverse a wide range of areas within disability services. While time does not permit a full discussion of each recommendation, I wish to discuss a few key themes in the report. As I have already placed on record my thoughts on complaints and grievance handling and compliance, I will not cover those aspects of the report. Recommendation 1 cuts to the very core of identifying, acknowledging and managing unmet and undermet need. I strongly support amending the Disability Services Act 1993 to require the biannual disclosure of data on unmet and undermet need and the conducting of service user and carer surveys every three years.

Our communities want a clear picture on whether people are having basic human rights fulfilled, rather than having to wade through oblique department doublespeak and bureaucratic mazes. We need honesty and transparency about the level of unmet and undermet need to encourage prioritisation of disability services and fulfilment of human rights. I am encouraged by the work of the department and the Minister in taking the first steps towards gathering this data, and I look forward to the New South Wales Parliament starting a dialogue on how individuals and families can get the most out of the underinvestment in disability and ageing services.

Stronger Together has in part addressed the gross underinvestment in disability and ageing services. It has started to bridge the gulf between borderline neglect at one end of the service picture and service delivery enabling full social inclusion and real livelihoods. However, where we fall on that spectrum is a matter of debate. The Executive Officer of the Disability Council of New South Wales notes that things have improved but “we still have an awful long way to go”. Ms Christine Regan, Senior Policy Officer with the Council of Social Service of New South Wales, pointed out to the committee that a doubling of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care budget only created a 19 per cent increase in the number of people using disability supported accommodation.

There remains a strong consensus in the sector, from the Director General of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care and peak organisations down to small specialist non-government organisations and advocacy groups, that there is unmet need in our disability services. The implication one can draw from this consensus is that our disability and ageing services remain underfunded and inefficient, leading to the predominance of crisis-based intervention. Damian Griffis, Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Disability Network, pointed out that the level of unmet need for disability services in Aboriginal communities is even more acute, particularly beyond Newcastle, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains where half the New South Wales Aboriginal population live. Support for recommendations 8 and 31 to 34 is an important first step to opening up greater access to disability services for Aboriginal people. Recommendation 33 refers to provided and funded services for cultural competency training, to enable people to work more effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from a non-English speaking background. A theme that seems to be running through many reports is that we need cultural training in so many areas.

  •  

According to the Deputy Director General of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, more than 8,000 people do not have access to a disability service which they require, although 50 per cent of those 8,000 have received another type of service from the department. This demonstrates that approximately 4,000 people in New South Wales have undermet need. Importantly, of that group of people approximately 780 had received no service at all, and of those who received no service at all approximately 50 per cent waited longer than six months to receive a service. Some may brush this aside as a small minority of people not receiving adequate services, but if we think about the implications of plunging whole families into crisis or exposing them to the intense pressure of non-provision of service, we can see the significance for human rights in New South Wales.

Characterising the full extent of unmet and undermet need remains a live point of debate. The Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care suggests there is a lack of reliable data to measure unmet need, yet organisations such as the Council of Social Service of New South Wales dispute this and suggest the problem lies in Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care processing and analysis of data. Recently I received a response to a question I placed on notice for the Minister for Disability Services, and from the response I am inclined to support the assertion of the Council of Social Service of New South Wales that the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care does not sufficiently analyse the data it collects. At the end of the day, the committee acknowledged that there was evidence of significant unmet need in a number of key service delivery streams.

  •  

One potential measure of unmet need is waiting lists or service request registers. The committee examined the issue of waiting lists and heard evidence about Home Care Service NSW not maintaining waiting lists despite a 2005-06 New South Wales Public Accounts Committee inquiry recommendation to maintain them. The idea that people are required to call back on a daily basis to check whether a service is available is demeaning and ludicrous. Further, the lack of transparency around prioritisation criteria creates a high level of mistrust. However, I accept some of the problems associated with waiting lists and the disincentive to leave services. Recommendation 29 is a sensible way forward in developing a consistent policy on waiting lists. The Minister should adopt a presumption in favour of waiting lists and have only a small set of circumstances in which waiting lists will be not be used.

Another important theme of the inquiry was discussion of a person-centred approach to disability services. A number of recommendations are geared to refocusing how the Department of Aging, Disability and Home Care structures its services. When we talk about a person-centred approach to disability services we are talking about designing services around individuals, their families and their needs rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Roz Armstrong, an official community visitor in northern New South Wales, suggested to the committee that New South Wales is yet to deliver any really good examples of person-centred planning, especially by Department of Aging, Disability and Home Care service providers. Ms Armstrong told the committee:

  •  
      … individual planning goals are more about meeting service objectives rather than focusing on individual support needs. This occurs in both ADHC funded and ADHC provided services.

Service users, carers and service providers provided anecdotal evidence about the lack of person-centred approaches being implemented by the Department of Aging, Disability and Home Care. Carolyn Mason, a mother and primary carer, stated in relation to a person-centred approach:

  •  
      It should never be accepted practice to physically and/or chemically restrain as a substitute for professional care and treatment or to simply make the job easier for poorly trained, inexperienced or unprofessional staff or in the absence of quality care and service provision and person-centred planning.

Janice Marshall, another mother and carer, made a similar point that service delivery is crisis driven, which in turn restricts the ability for future planning around the needs of individuals. She said:

  •  
      Parents have to die, be seriously ill or abandon their loved one to even get into the system. This crisis-driven scheme causes widespread mental and physical illness within the families and often leads to family breakdowns, which ends up costing the State and ADHC even more money than if they actually funded the accommodation in the first place.

Recommendations 7 to 10 make important suggestions for reform and development of planning approaches. Importantly, we can see this focus on data collection and research and analysis even in the context of improving person-centred approaches. Greater planning focus on person-centred approaches inevitably leads us to the dialogue on individualised funding. While the New South Wales Disability Service Standards and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities articulate a vision of supporting individual needs with responsive services to remove social barriers, the practical reality of service delivery historically has allowed very little room for individualised funding packages. Individualised funding has the potential of increasing flexibility in service delivery and encouraging greater choice in services.

From the report it is clear that the committee spent a deal of effort considering how individualised funding may work in New South Wales and the benefits and pitfalls of such an approach. Other jurisdictions are much more advanced in disability service provision and delivery than New South Wales, and we need to draw on their experiences. The current Minister for Disability Services, the Hon. Andrew Constance, and the former Minister, the Hon. Peter Primrose, both made it clear that we must move ahead and modernise disability services to give a voice to essential human rights. I look forward to working with all members, all stakeholders and all people with disabilities on reforming our disability services.

Moving away from the big picture themes of the inquiry, the committee spent a considerable amount of time considering a number of key challenges in the disabilities portfolio. Devolution from large residential centres, lack of funding and efficient management of the Home Modification and Maintenance scheme, vacancy management in supported accommodation and monitoring effectiveness for licensed boarding houses are just some of the ongoing policy changes that New South Wales needs to confront. The New South Wales Parliament needs to ensure ongoing discussion and consultation to address specific issues. In conclusion, I express my support for and appreciation of those committed to enabling people with disabilities to live their lives with their families, carers or sector workers.

Recommendations 51 to 54 focus on ways to improve workforce capacity and skills so as not to overlook those on the service front line. We should encourage those who are considering a career in the disability service sector and give them a real career pathway rather than shifting them up to middle management positions where they are totally alienated from front-line care roles. I encourage all members to read the report. As we move ahead with the reform pathway, which the Minister for Disability Services has aptly started to outline, we should remember some of the lessons unveiled by this report. I commend the report to the House.

Disability Access

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: I direct my question to the Minister for Finance and Services, representing the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. The Disability (Access to Premises—Buildings) Standards and accompanying changes to the Building Code of Australia commenced on 1 May 2011, giving greater emphasis to universal design principles. To support these reforms, an Access Advisory Committee has been established to assess applications for exemptions from the standards, based on unjustifiable hardship. Will the Minister advise whether any Commonwealth or New South Wales disability advocacy organisations have representation on that committee? If not, why not? Will the Minister advise how many applications for exemptions from the standards have been sought from the Access Advisory Committee and whether the exemption process will be mandatory?

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: I thank the Hon. Jan Barham for her very interesting question. I will be interested to obtain an answer from the Minister and provide it as soon as possible.

Local Government Tourism Funding

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services representing the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing. Will the Minister advise whether a new funding source will be made available to local government authorities in popular tourism areas to assist with infrastructure upgrades and maintenance in recognition of councils’ role in maintaining facilities used by both residents and visitors and given their constrained budgets and the fact that they do not receive funding for tourism?

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: I thank the honourable member for her question. I am sure the Hon. Greg Donnelly would be able to give a detailed answer if he was a Minister, but, sadly, he never will be. I will, however, get an answer from the appropriate Minister and provide it to the member.

ANSWER

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: On 4 August 2011 the Hon. Jan Barham asked me, representing the Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, a question regarding local government funding. The Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing has provided the following response: 

I thank the Honourable Member for her question.

In our first 100 days, we commenced implementation on our election promises to double overnight visitor expenditure in NSW by 2020 and to build a world class convention centre.

Destination NSW combines the State’s events and tourism resources into a new, single statutory authority governed by a Board of Management.

As you would know another election commitment that we have met in the budget is to provide Regional Tourism Organisations with an extra $5 million on top of the existing regional tourism budgets to develop local tourism infrastructure.

This funding will equate to $250,000 each with a balance available for joint projects. We strongly encourage local councils to work with the Regional Tourism Organisations to cooperatively develop priorities for the expenditure of our funding boost.

Supporting Young People Leaving Care

CREATE Foundation, an advocacy organisation for children who are in state care or have been in state care, recently released a report into the outcomes for young people leaving out-of-home-care or foster care in New South Wales.

In the first year after leaving care, CREATE has found that when children who have been in the care of the Minister turn 18, these young people are less likely than those in other states to have a Leaving Care Plan and up to one third may become homeless after leaving care.

Care leavers are more likely to be unemployed than others in this age group and are also more likely to spend time in prison. Barnardos have found that one in seven young people leaving care are either pregnant or already mothers.

Leaving Care Plans should be available to all of these vulnerable young people so that they can make a start on developing the life skills they will need to look after themselves in the adult world. This should include an introduction to training, further education or employment.

All young people who turn 18, have had a care order and been in the care of the Department of Family and Community Services or a non government care agency such as Barnardos or UnitingCare Burnside, should be offered substantial assistance to prepare for transition to adult life.

Ideally, preparation begins at age 15 when living skills such as cooking, budgeting and making job applications are practised with the help of case workers and carers. By the age of 17, carers and case workers need to be helping young people to prepare a “leaving care plan” which stays in place until age 25. Young people with a disability need to begin planning a little earlier and can seek assistance from Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) who can follow through with care plans.

Care Plans are an entitlement and young people have a legal right to have them so why is it that so few seem to be in place? I have asked the Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister for Finance and Services to provide me with information on what percentage of children in the care of the Minister have leaving care plans. Both Ministers have refused to provide details on the number of children and young people in care with leaving care plans. I would have thought transparency in fulfilment of statutory rights was the order of the day for this new government.

Most care leavers are also entitled to a one-off payment called Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA) but many young people do not seem to be aware of this. I congratulate the Department of Family and Community Services for their document entitled “Information for Young People leaving Care – Your Next Step”. It provides comprehensive information for this group of young people.

Planning for Leaving Care ideally should begin when kids in care are 14 or 15, and as recommended in the document just mentioned, they need to make sure they are aware of personal hygiene, know how to cook a simple meal, use a washing machine and dryer, can use an ATM and manage a simple budget. They also need to know how to get help in an emergency, be able to list some birth control options and explain the risks of drugs, alcohol and unsafe sex. This knowledge is of course important to all teenagers.

At around age 17 it is necessary for young people to begin to acquire further skills such as knowing how to budget for ongoing costs as well as unexpected emergencies that might arise; knowing how to arrange accommodation and how to sign a rental agreement. Having a tax file number, a resume and learning how to apply for a job and knowing how to enrol to vote are also important skills to acquire. All this information and suggestions are contained in the FACS document – Your Next Step – Information for Young People Leaving Care.

 However, this great information often does not seem to translate into action for this vulnerable group.  It would appear that many do not receive the information or assistance to access it and act on it. I understand that the work required for case workers to go through this process is detailed and time-consuming, and high case loads mean that the time is not always available to get all this information to the young people who would greatly benefit from it.

In developing a Leaving Care Plan, a 17-year-old would probably benefit from the help of an independent party in what is essentially a contract negotiation with a government department.

An example of this would be Barnardo’s leaving care services that aim to bridge the gap for children in care between leaving care and living in the adult world. Barnardos will help young people to develop the life skills they will need to look after themselves, including those listed in the FACS document mentioned as well as encouraging them to undertake employment, training or further education.

When they leave care, Barnardo’s helps the young people secure permanent accommodation and remains available to offer support and counselling if necessary. If this essential system is in place but actually not being delivered effectively to young people, then possibly enforcement mechanisms need to be in place.

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