Victoria’s largest youth homelessness service is calling on the Victorian Government to take urgent action to stop young people being evicted at age 18 from foster care into homelessness.
Vicki Sutton, Chief Executive Officer of Melbourne City Mission, said more than 20 per cent of young people presenting at Frontyard – the Statewide intake point for young people aged 12 to 25 seeking homelessness assistance – disclose that they have come from the care system.
Overall, an estimated 35 per cent of young people in the Out of Home Care system will enter homelessness in the first year of leaving care.
A signatory to the ‘Home Stretch’ state election campaign launched today, Ms Sutton called on the Victorian Government to follow the lead of Tasmania and South Australia and legislate to extend the age of care from 18 to 21.
This would provide young people in foster care and other types of Out-of-Home Care with the option to stay in care for another three years beyond 18.
"At 18, most young people are not equipped to leave the ‘nest’ and transition to independent living," Ms Sutton said.
"Why, then, should young people who have spent time in the Out-of-Home care system, without the support of their families, be expected to stand on their own two feet as they are catapulted out of state care?"
"The waiting room of Frontyard, Melbourne City Mission’s Statewide youth homelessness service, is regularly filled with care leavers who are struggling to make the transition to independent living because of their young age, absence of a family safety net and other personal supports, and a shortage of housing options. They also carry significant childhood trauma, that they still need help to recover from."
"By cutting support at age 18, when they are not ready to strike out on their own, Victoria’s Out-of-Home Care system is perpetuating previous experiences of abandonment and setting them up to fail," Ms Sutton said.
“Offering an extra three years of support would create the conditions for young people in care to confidently step into adulthood. An extra three years would give them plenty of time – at the right time – to develop skills for independent living, complete education or training, and forge a pathway to employment in a supported environment.”
Ms Sutton said the Victorian Government was to be lauded for its initiatives to tackle rough sleeping.
"Extending the leaving care age would be another significant game-changer. Making it 21 will make a significant dent in the rate of youth homelessness in Victoria.”