Campaign- ‘Leaving Care Plans: Give Foster Kids a Chance’

There are approximately 18,000 young people in foster care in NSW, and about 1100 of these leave care annually. A Leaving Care Plan is something which should be started by a caseworker when a  young person reaches the age of about 15.

The plan prepares the young person for being an adult. It alerts them to adult ideas such as budgeting, education pathways, health supports, learning to drive, setting up a house, and how to cook basic food. Many of these young people leave care between 16 and 18 without any family support and have to manage things on their own. A Leaving Care Plan may help them prepare for this step into adulthood.

A study by the CREATE Foundation shows that:

  •  only 18% of young people leaving care get a Leaving Care Plan (LCP),
  • 35% of young people are homeless in the first year they leave care

These young people are not getting vital support and information which can direct them to better social outcomes.

The legislation says the Minister is supposed to ensure that all young people are getting their LCP- however this is not happening.

Jan Barham has spoken in Parliament on this issue and currently has  a Motion on the Notice Paper in Parliament about the importance of supporting these young people. Jan also has a campaign to raise awareness about this vulnerable group of people in our society.

Leaving Care Plan brief for more information,

Go to:Leaving Care Plan petition to download the petition.Get it filled in and send it back to us at:

Jan Barham MLC  
The Greens
Legislative Council, Parliament House
Macquarie Street, SYDNEY 2OOO
Ph: 02 9230 2204   Fax: 02 9230 2766

 

Notice of Motion “Leaving Care Plans”

On the 22nd November 2011 Jan put a Motion on the Notice Paper in NSW Parliament about the importance of Leaving Care Plans. Jan has called on the government to fulfil its legislated obligation of providing leaving care plans to all young care leavers. Currently the government only provides plans to 18% of young people leaving foster care.

Leaving Care Plans assist young people who have none, or limited support, with information on what services they can access and how they can access them. The plans are intended to empower young people in their journey into adulthood.

For more information on this issue go here:  http://www.janbarham.org.au/?p=87 

To help with the campaign you can download a copy of the petition here.

If you have an inquiry please call the office on 9230 2204, and speak to Ella Buckland or Bronwen Regan.

Homeless Young People QWN

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra, representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. How many young people in New South Wales who are identified as homeless have been in care and how many of those received a leaving care plan?

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: I thank the Hon. Jan Barham for her question and interest in this important area. I know that she has done a considerable amount of work in relation to these issues and I have taken particular note of her questions in order to answer them appropriately. The New South Wales Government acknowledges the complex challenges and barriers that young people face in accessing and sustaining appropriate accommodation. In 2010-11 the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Community Services jointly contributed $134 million to fund approximately 350 Specialist Homelessness Services to provide accommodation and support to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Approximately 39 per cent of the Specialist Homelessness Services in New South Wales are targeted at young people. This equates to approximately 138 youth-focused Specialist Homelessness Services in 2010-11, with funding of approximately $48.3 million.

In relation to the honourable member’s question, I am advised that supported accommodation services currently do not record whether or not clients have been in out-of-home care when they request accommodation and other homelessness services. The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 provides for assistance for young people who are transitioning from out-of-home care to independent living. Assistance can include help to find accommodation, to undertake education and training or to access income support and healthcare. It also may include referrals to counselling services. Transitioning to independence is a key priority area under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, and New South Wales is working closely with the Commonwealth to improve outcomes for young care leavers.

New South Wales is contributing to the planning of a nationally consistent approach to leaving care and a review of the Transition to Independent Living Allowance. Community Services has implemented a case planning framework and electronic templates for case planning and review that will support consistent case planning, including on leaving care. Objectives addressed in the eight measures of wellbeing in the case plan template focus on supporting the young person’s successful transition to independent living. A key priority of the New South Wales Homelessness Action Plan is a “no exits into homelessness” policy to ensure that young people leaving out-of-home care have access to long-term supported housing. Community Services is working with non-government organisations to implement the Homelessness Action Plan. It leads 32 projects targeting specific client groups. This includes assisting Aboriginal young people leaving out-of-home care to successfully transition to independent living, preventing their homelessness.

 

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.

Petition for essential Leaving Care Plans for Young People

Create Foundation have released a report that over 60% of children in the care of the Minister or in out of home care do not have leaving care plans. A recent SMH article highlighted the challenges faced by young people leaving care.

In the first year after leaving care, CREATE has found that when young people turn 18, in NSW, they 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.

Add your voice to those calling for proper support of young people leaving care. Download a petition here.