NSW is falling behind by failing to extend the age of leaving out-of-home care to 21 years

Abigail demanded answers from the Minister for Families and Communities regarding why they refuse to  adopt the international push to implement universal extended care to 21 years.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: Another one of the recommendations is to extend the age of leaving out-of-home care to at least 21 years. Obviously, this has been a live discussion around the country. Queensland recently implemented it, to make it 21 years. I understand that New South Wales is the only state in Australia—again, we are the outlier—with no commitment to implement funding and policies to extend out-of-home care to 21 years. Do you intend to adopt that recommendation, Minister?

The Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES: It's not as straightforward as saying "blanket extend". I touched on this before, that there is a range of support that is given to young people in care, and there is also evidence that says that some of our most vulnerable are the ones who actually leave care. So having a blanket payment to carers if that child is choosing not to stay there—and at the age of 16, 17 or 18, you can't force that child to stay there. It's about targeting the individual child's needs. We have a range of programs that support young people, including traineeships and scholarships, supported independent living, there is Foyer Central and there is also the Premier's Youth Initiative, which is for young people who are—

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: Sorry, if I could just take you back. In the answer that you gave before—are you then saying that you support the option, should a child wish to stay in out-of-home care until 21?

The Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES: No. What I'm saying is that you have got to look at it more broadly. There is the complexity of a child that is leaving, but also looking at how it is implemented across all of the other jurisdictions as well. In New South Wales we have very targeted early intervention for young people, but we also do have some support for young people who stay with a carer beyond the age of 21. There's also—

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: There's quite a lot of evidence, though, isn't there, that if children are leaving at 18 as opposed to 21, you'll see higher rates of homelessness, of unemployment and of problems further down the track? It makes sense from a long-term perspective, doesn't it, to extend this care to 21 years and give people that option?

The Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES: It's not as black and white. I'll address it in two parts. One is our focus is about the individual care. We have individual care plans that caseworkers will work with a young person—I think it is from the age of 15—to identify what their needs are and what their additional support might be. We also have programs that target young people who might be more at risk of homelessness, and I'm happy to go through all of those in detail. But when you look at other jurisdictions, they have actually implemented the care support in different ways. For example, in the ACT and Northern Territory, financial assistance to carers may continue beyond 18 on a case-by-case basis.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: Sorry, I'll stop you again. Is your answer, "No, we're not thinking of extending the age of leaving out-of-home care to 21 because the rest of our landscape is different"?

The Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES: No. What's I'm saying is that you need to take on board what is in operation across jurisdictions, and they all do vary. Also looking at what we currently provide—and I've asked the secretary to look at that and review it more broadly because it is not just a blanket "let's make this announcement"; it's actually, "What would work in our current framework?" As I said, we do a lot more in supporting young people in care and as they leave care than other jurisdictions.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: Is the answer that you're actively reviewing it?

The Hon. NATASHA MACLAREN-JONES: I am actively reviewing it.


You can read the full transcript here.

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