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Investors, Anglicare among partners in five-year program to assist young care leavers

State Ministers hail partnership between church agencies, private investors and the Victorian Government.

Anglicare's Paul McDonald (left) and VincentCare's John Blewonski (right) flank State Government ministers Tim Pallas and Jenny Mikakos and young care leavers Ella Cross and Dylan Langley at today's launch in Footscray of COMPASS.

By Mark Brolly

October 16 2018 

Anglicare Victoria has joined forces with the St Vincent de Paul Society’s VincentCare, private investors who raised $14.2 million and the Victorian Government to provide support for young people leaving out-of-home care through a new Social Impact Bond, the largest in Australia.

COMPASS, which was launched in Footscray today, will provide young people leaving care with housing and specialist support to enable them to make a successful transition to adult life and avoid homelessness and other problems.

The program, which starts in Melbourne’s western suburbs next week and in the northern suburbs and Bendigo in 2019, aims to help more than 200 people aged between 16 and 18 over five years. It is designed to link young people leaving foster, kinship and residential care with housing, education, training and job opportunities.

About 55 investors – from individuals, families and institutions – committed at least $50,000 each to the program to up to $1 million. A young care leaver, Mr Dylan Langley who attended today’s launch, had made presentations to potential investors.

Measures of success will include reduced homelessness, improved health and less involvement with the criminal justice system for young people involved, as well as economic returns for the Government and other program funders.

Victoria’s Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos and Treasurer Tim Pallas launched the program and hailed the partnership between the Government, private investors and not-for-profit organisations as a model to improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Ms Mikakos said COMPASS would help more young people as they left care and started living independently. It would complement – not replace – existing services and programs, such as the Home Stretch and Better Futures programs.

“The better they (young care leavers) can be supported to live on their own, long-term, the less likely they are to need crisis services down the track,” she said.

“The focus on better outcomes for young people acknowledges that smart governments invest in prevention and early intervention, rather than placing the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.”

Mr Pallas said: “COMPASS is Australia’s largest social impact bond and another example of how partnerships between government, investors and not-for-profit organisations can be used to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable Victorians.”

Running an economy was not just about infrastructure, he said, but about the nuts and bolts that provided the necessities to people to ensure that social cohesion was a key component of everything the Government did.

“If we achieve a great… economy but we turn our back on the most vulnerable… then I think we’ve made a massive disinvestment and we’ve focused on all the wrong things. Good governments understand that strong economies and strong communities go hand-in-hand,” he said.

Anglicare Victoria’s CEO, Mr Paul McDonald, said COMPASS was an innovative solution to responding to a tough social problem and a historic milestone for social impact investing in Australia.

“Investors who have supported COMPASS have invested in creating a better future for young people leaving care,’’ he said.

“This is a bold new approach that brings together investors, community organisations and government to drive better outcomes for young people.

“Young people leaving care deserve every opportunity to fulfil their potential but face so many more barriers to success than other young people in the community.

“COMPASS will give them the support they need to have every chance of success in education, work and life.’’

Mr McDonald said social outcomes for young people coming out of care and the costs to governments were quite significant and continued well after the young person had left care.

“We need to right the poor trajectories and issues around this group… this gives us a great opportunity to reverse those poor trajectories,” he said.

Mr McDonald said the partnership with the Government and VincentCare provided a very strong spine, with financial and legal professional services provided by companies such as KPMG, Corrs and the Commonwealth Bank.

“This was new ground for us all, for government and for ourselves.”

VincentCare Victoria’s CEO, Mr John Blewonski said providing stable housing and ongoing support services for care leavers was a critical part of breaking the cycle of disadvantage.

“Providing a safe, secure home removes the uncertainty many young people face when they leave care and puts them in the best possible position to thrive and develop the skills they need for the future,’’ Mr Blewonski said.

“Evidence shows that having appropriate housing and individualised support, enables people to look after their health, find a job or get involved in education and training. It empowers them to set goals for their future and achievement and reduces the risk of ending up in the criminal justice, health and homelessness systems.”

Mr Blewonski said the boards of Anglicare and VincentCare brought to COMPASS a strong desire to be innovative and to drive something new and different in response to social disadvantage.

Miss Ella Cross, an 18-year-old who has been in foster care since she was 14 and who has moved four times this year, told the audience attending the launch: “My hope for other young people leaving care is to have people to support them and not go through too much change in households.”