A new trial service, developed and funded by DCP, and being operated by Centacare in partnership with Aboriginal Sobriety Group, Housing Choices SA and DCP, is looking to curb the poor outcomes that many young people experience when they leave care. By providing access to affordable accommodation and a range of other wrap-around supports, we understand that the Next Steps Pilot Service seeks to better support young people moving from residential care into adult life and independence.
There is no doubt that serious improvements are needed. According to Home Stretch, the national campaign to raise support for care leavers to the age of 21, it is an alarming reality that within the first year of leaving care 50% of young people will be unemployed, in jail, homeless or have become a new parent.
Currently across Australia, each state and territory applies different ages and supports relating to leaving care. South Australia has introduced extended care up to 21 years but only for young people in foster and kinship care. Although the average age for a young person to move out of their family home is 23 or 24, young people in residential care must leave care the year they turn 18, whether they are ready or not. This discrepancy leaves them at a profound disadvantage.
Among the young people and adults who have called our office for advocacy support in the last financial year, leaving care has been a big issue for many. Their concerns have related to:
- wanting to move into independent living
- a lack of planning for their transition from care
- a lack of post-care support
- the availability of post-care housing and the risk of homelessness.
The Next Steps Pilot Service is expected to run until June 2025 and will support a minimum of 20 young people aged 17½ years of age and above. These are young people who are living in residential care in the metropolitan area, have complex needs, and are at risk of homelessness.
The service is designed to work alongside participants to help them develop and achieve their goals, which might include:
- finding and moving into new accommodation
- building life skills such as budgeting, paying bills and looking after their accommodation
- finding and using services they need
- starting or continuing education, training or employment
- connecting safely with people that matter to them
- connecting with their community and culture
- managing legal issues.
Next Steps Manager, Sam Carpenter, has said that “Working with young people through to the age of 21 provides an incredible opportunity to form trusting, ongoing relationships with them and walk alongside them to achieve the adult life they deserve.”
“We hope that working with Next Steps will help our young people to be confident in their practical living skills, to make decisions for themselves and have agency over their own lives, to maintain co-operative and healthy relationships with friends and family and to feel a sense of belonging to community, culture and identity.”
The future – whether this pilot program is able to achieve its goals, is expanded, or comes to an end in 2025 – remains to be seen. Here at OGCYP, we will watch with interest and sincerely hope Next Steps is a step in the right direction to improve the life outcomes for this vulnerable group of young South Australians.
Did you know young people from the age 15 should be supported by their case worker to help them prepare for life after care by creating a Leaving Care Plan. We’ve created a leaving care factsheet for young people to find out more about leaving care, be sure to share this with the young people you work for.