Opposition's extended state care pledge welcomed by advocates

More education, employment, housing support for young people leaving state care promised by opposition leader

By Chris Shearer

June 15 2018 

Campaigners for increasing support for young people leaving state care have welcomed a plan by the Victorian Opposition to extend the age limit for out of home care from 18 to 21.

Speaking at the 2018 Victorian Council of Social Services summit on Wednesday, opposition leader Matthew Guy pledged to extend state care for 75 young people a year as part of a two-year pilot program if elected in this year’s state election.

The transitioning program will see young people leaving state care given greater support for education, employment and housing.

“We will provide more support to Victoria’s most vulnerable kids,” Mr Guy said.

“I want to break the current cycle of despair that young vulnerable people experience and this initiative will give those young people hope for the future.”

The announcement was welcomed by Home Stretch, an alliance that has been campaigning for the extension of state care.

Home Stretch CEO Paul McDonald, who is also CEO of Anglicare Victoria, said the pilot would have a “positive impact” on young people transitioning from state care.

“It will change the futures of these young people for the better, ensuring they don’t become another youth justice, unemployment or homelessness statistic.”

According to Home Stretch, around 800 young people aged 15-17 leave state care each year, with 400 of those expected to struggle.

Mr McDonald said he was now calling on Premier Daniel Andrews to legislate and fund the extension of state care to age 21 in Victoria.

“The social and economic outcomes when a government extends care to 21 years are remarkable for young people and for the state,” he said.

“This should be a bipartisan no brainer as seen in the recent Tasmanian election and we call upon the Andrews Government to announce this much needed reform on behalf of the children under his government’s care.”

Mr Andrews, who also spoke at the VCOSS summit, pointed to the government’s Better Futures Trial, which connects 100 young people approaching 16 with a social worker who will help them transition out of state care until age 21. Mr Andrews told the summit the trial had shown promising results and would be extended an extra year.

“We’re confident that this will give us the learnings that we need to perhaps make the step [of extending state care],” he said.

“I think there’s a very strong case and one that will only be borne out by the work that’s been done and been funded to continue.”

Mr McDonald, speaking to Pro Bono News, urged the Premier to act sooner, saying that legislation was needed to ensure those likely to struggle won’t be left behind.

“Waiting for the Better Future’s trial from this Labor Government… will see another 400 young people [struggling] each year.

“A lot of solid state government policy has been built on a lot less than the evidence for extending care. And they still haven’t done it.”