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Call to extend youth care - LATROBE VALLEY EXPRESS - MORWELL

Posted on 16 August 2018
Call to extend youth care - LATROBE VALLEY EXPRESS - MORWELL

16 August 2018

By Heidi Kraak




A petition calling for the state government to review the out of home care system in Gippsland has been welcomed by the Gippsland Homelessness Network.

Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath tabled the petition in Parliament last week and called for improved communication between the department, agencies and out of home carers, which can be foster or kinship carers.

Gippsland Homelessness Network coordinator Chris McNamara said out of home care needed to be extended beyond the age of 18.

"There is a need to ... review the age of continued support and raise this from 18 to 21," she said.

"[This will] give these young people the best possible opportunity to establish themselves in tertiary education, training or employment before leaving care thus avoiding the likelihood of moving these young people into poverty and homelessness.

"It would just give them that greater sense of security to establish themselves and give them some better outcomes because homelessness is often what they go to."

Ms Bath said she would support raising the age of home care to 21.

"The Liberal and Nationals have a policy that works in conjunction with Anglicare [called the] Homestretch program. That means that young people who are ... currently in the out of home system could stay on and have extended support until they are 21," she said.

"I think this is a really important element to enabling those young people to have the support they need to jump into adulthood."

Ms Bath said 18-year-olds leaving out of home care were at risk of becoming homeless.

"I'm a mother of children, I know when my children turned 18 they didn't have all the answers, they still needed a lot of guidance and support," she said.

"The continuation of support until they are 21 ... about how to move out of home, how to rent, all those things that a normal parent would do, is really important.

"Young homeless people may be leaving a very nurturing home and end up on the streets and that is counter-productive from a government point of view and a human point of view."

Many Gippsland carers felt "highly frustrated" with "restricted communication and less than ideal support provided by the Department of Health and Human Services".

"It is simply unacceptable that out of home carers are not provided with critical information such as the medical history of a child they are responsible for," she said.

"I have personally spoken to out of home carers who in addition to a lack of information are also experiencing gross inconsistencies in their carer payments from the DHHS.

"While carers are not motivated by the reimbursements and allowances they receive, the department should remit funds due in a timely manner. I have many examples of foster carers who have not received any payment for well over six months from DHHS."

Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos did not say if the state government would consider increasing the age of support from 18 until 21, however, said the previous Coalition government "did absolutely nothing for families, carers and children in this state".

"We're getting on with delivering massive reforms to the system, including an unprecedented $858.6 million investment through this year's budget to ensure vulnerable families and kids get the support they need," she said.




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