Earlier last month, Guardian Shona Reid launched a report sharing the lived experiences of young people who have transitioned from child protection and the youth justice systems and the high risk of homelessness that all too frequently comes from it.
The Constellation Project’s report, Lived experience voices, found that young people are having to leave systems without adequate preparation for life and are disproportionately over-represented amongst Australia’s homeless population. Statistics show that 54% of care leavers experienced homelessness within four years of transitioning from care, with 34% experiencing homelessness in their first year.
The report highlighted that many young people do not feel prepared or ready to transition from care or youth justice to independent living on the mandated date (their 18th birthday). A lack of basic independent living skills (such as budgeting, looking after a home and cooking), support, housing availability and awareness of accessible services were key concerns – the same concerns that were raised in our latest annual report from young people and adults who called our office for advocacy support in 2021-22.
Project Coordinator, Lorna Robinson, said the team set out to build a body of lived experience insights to communicate and bring to life the team’s case for change – to design pathways so people can avoid experiencing homelessness or be supported to rapidly exit homelessness.
“We knew that for solutions to be effective, they must be informed and led by people who have lived experience of out of home care, the youth justice system, and homelessness,” Lorna said.
“They’re the experts – they know what works and what doesn’t. These insights have the power to provide insights that have not previously been thought of, improve research, writing and engagement in policy making processes, as well as challenge assumptions or viewpoints. These are critical elements to initiating change,” she said.
“We started with the objectives of understanding and unpacking where current approaches have either failed or assisted young people as they transition to independent living, identifying the critical components of support and ‘what good looks like’ and conducting a gap analysis against current approaches.”
While the most common and expected finding from the research was that many young people do not feel prepared or ready to leave the child protection and youth justice systems, the most surprising finding by the project team was the lack of understanding of the challenges and best practices to support young people exiting these systems, as well as a lack of research driven or informed by lived expertise, particularly in South Australia.
The team created recommendations that would provide holistic support for young people, prior to and from the time they left the systems, such as ensuring that a leaving care plan is in place and adequate support and assistance is provided in regard to connecting to family and culture, housing, finances, education, employment, life skills, health and wellbeing.
Lorna said she hopes the recommendations will inform programs, practices and policies that relate to young people transitioning from the child protection and youth justice systems.
“We also hope that the report demonstrates a standard in which lived expertise is central to all activities in the space, that existing power dynamics are evaluated, and that there is a shift in which young people and people with lived experience sit at the table as equals in decision-making and are empowered and supported to do so,” Lorna said.
You can read the report on The Constellation Project’s website.