Minister for Children Tracey Martin has announced $153.7 million for helping young people leave state care and youth justice system and transition into adulthood.
Young New Zealanders leaving the care system will be supported as they move to adulthood and independence.
The Wellbeing Budget contains funding to build a new nation-wide Transition Support Service which is expected to help around 3,000 young people over the next four years after it starts on July 1.
“It is time to recognise the special responsibility we have for the young people leaving the state’s care,” says Children’s Minister Tracey Martin. “For too long they have been left to fend for themselves with little support, in a way we would never accept for our own children when they leave home.
“For these young people, the transition to adulthood often comes early, abruptly, and with little in the way of a safety net. It has been a huge hole in our system of care that young people didn’t have this support. It’s time to fix that.”
The Wellbeing Budget is investing $153.7 million over four years for Oranga Tamariki to build the transition service for young people leaving the care and youth justice system. The service was originally proposed by the Modernising Child, Youth and Family Expert Panel in 2015.
The Modernising Child, Youth and Family Expert Panel that examined the care system in New Zealand identified young people leaving care or a youth justice residence are at risk of poor life outcomes, are likely to have high health needs, insecure or inadequate housing and are less likely to engage with education and employment than their peers.
While most young people may receive help from their parents well into their twenties, young people leaving care or a youth justice residential placement tend to receive relatively little financial or social support after they leave the placement. Many also suffer from the enduring effects of childhood trauma and are less ready than their peers to live independently.
Young people have said that when they leave care at age 18, they are at a vulnerable age and are too young to be left without support.
Wellbeing outcomes for young people aged 18 to 20 who have left care or a youth justice residence are significantly poorer than for young people who have had no contact with Oranga Tamariki. These care or youth justice-experienced young people are:
• between 20 and 80 times more likely to be involved in serious offending, and between nine and 20 times more likely to be involved in low-level offending
• five to seven times more likely to be on a benefit
• three to seven times more likely to access mental health services
• 12 to 30 times more likely to access substance abuse services
• two to four times more likely to be hospitalised
• half as likely to achieve a tertiary qualification.
These disparities in outcomes continue as these young people grow older.
The Minister said that making the investment now reduced the risk of personal cost to the young people and would help break the cycle of families needing state care. Nearly 30% of children in care have parents who had also been in care.
The new services include:
• 175 new specialist transition support staff by year four providing day-to-day support to individual young people as they transition out of care
• 60 supported accommodation places by year four for young people who need a stepping stone to make a successful transition to independent living
• $25 million over four years to support arrangements for young people to continue to live with their caregiver beyond the age of 18
• $9 million over four years to provide advice and assistance to individual young people transitioning from care to independence, up to the age of 25.
The Minister said that young people who have been in the care or youth justice systems had had a difficult start to life and it was wrong that support for them ended when they turned 18.
“Teenagers leaving care should have the right to expect what any young person would want - knowing there is someone to turn to if they need help; a warm bed to sleep in; some help and encouragement when it is needed,” says Tracey. “This service will provide that, both by allowing young people to stay longer with their caregivers and providing specialised transitions support workers whose job is to help this group.
“Sadly, we also know what happens without this kind of support. Those young people who have left the state’s care and protection have in the past ended up with worse outcomes in nearly every key area including health, housing and incomes.”
The Minister said that young people were engaged with in the design of the transition service, which would largely be provided by NGOs, iwi and Māori organisations.
“This was a deliberate decision. The service is voluntary and we want young people to engage with it. Oranga Tamariki hasn’t generally worked with 18-25 year olds, but its community partners already have a youth focus and capability to work with this group.”
Close to 40 transition workers will be on the ground available to work with eligible young people leaving the care system from 1 July. This workforce will grow to 175.
The Transition Worker role will enable a more gradual and supported transition from care. They will work alongside the social worker while the young person is in care helping to coordinate the support and encouraging the young person to have more say and increasing responsibility about what they want.
As a young person leaves care the Transition Worker will be the key support relationship, maintaining contact with young people until they are 21 and helping them to access the advice and assistance they need to become independent.
From 1 July, young people who have been in care or custody of Oranga Tamariki for a continuous period of at least three months after the age of 14 years and 9 months can remain living with a caregiver after they turn 18 or they can return to living with a caregiver until they turn 21. This is voluntary for both the young person and the caregiver.
Where they both agree, Oranga Tamariki will:
• support eligible young people, from the age of 18 years and until they turn 21, to remain, or return to, living with a caregiver.
• provide the young person with support to negotiate and agree the terms on which they will live with a caregiver. This will be recorded in a living arrangement agreement agreed between the young person and the caregiver
• monitor the support arrangement against pre-determined standards of care
• provide the young person with financial assistance towards the reasonable cost of living with the caregiver (if required).