The right to shelter
Unsurprisingly, housing affordability and supply is at crisis point and has been for a number of years. It is always our most vulnerable who feel disadvantage the most. The AIWH states: “Access to good quality, affordable housing is fundamental to wellbeing.1 Indeed it is a human right, supported by International Law. Children and young people because of their vulnerability are of particular importance.2
Housing crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and natural disasters
In his keynote address at the National Youth Homelessness Conference in 2021, our Patron, Prof. Brian Burdekin AO stated:
The Covid 19 pandemic followed closely on the heels of widespread bush fires and floods. The latest evidence is that these events have been extremely stressful – including for many young Australians – particularly our most disadvantaged young people. And we now have:
House prices which are for many completely unaffordable.
Rents which are completely unaffordable – for a very large number of people – (including in our major cities and in many coastal and regional towns as well).
Last year, a survey conducted by “headspace” (run by Professor Pat McGorry) found 75% of young people reported their mental health deteriorated during the covid-19 pandemic.
NCOSS Aftershock Series
After a challenging few years NSW’s housing crisis has worsened, NCOSS has just released its 3rd report in the Aftershock series: ‘Addressing the Economic and Social Costs of the Pandemic and Natural Disasters’. The first report focused on Mental Health, the second on Domestic and Family Violence and the third on Housing Security. All of these issues are interlinked – mental health issues both, can cause and are caused by homelessness, domestic & family violence is one of the main causes of youth homelessness as is housing insecurity.
A recent NCOSS press release states:
- An additional 3,700 homeless people in NSW since 2020 is estimated to cost the NSW economy between $524.5 million and $2.5 billion over six years.
- Homelessness has increased by around 10 per cent in NSW since the start of the pandemic as more people seek assistance from specialist homelessness services.3
Calls for a National Youth Homelessness and Housing Strategy
In April 2022, Pam Barker, who was the CEO of Yfoundations at the time, wrote a piece calling on state governments to put a sharp focus on children and young people who are at risk of or are experiencing homelessness and A National Youth Homelessness and Housing Strategy.4
Our key recommendation calls for a national child and youth homelessness strategy because the evidence shows that what we’re doing now isn’t working and continues to worsen.
National Child Protection Week 2022 – National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds – keynote address
Currently, we’re spending much more money on late reactions, such as youth detention and child protection systems, instead of investing in prevention and early intervention to keep children safe and well in their communities.
Our health, education and social service systems are fragmented and not fit for purpose for children and their families living with poverty and disadvantage.
Many of these families have told me directly about their frustrations at being unable to access support for their basic needs.
A country that values children would be trying hard to address child poverty, and shift investment upstream and earlier, to redesign the basic systems of support so that kids don’t fall in the gaps.5
Youth Mental Health
One of the key individual risk factors to homelessness is mental ill-health. It has been estimated that mental ill-health is a contributing factor for as many as 35 per cent of young people who have experienced homelessness.
It is also estimated that as many as 90 per cent of young people experiencing homelessness would probably meet the criteria for the diagnosis of at least one mental disorder. The experience of homelessness also can exacerbate, or contribute to, the onset of mental ill-health.A Welcome Home – Youth Homelessness and Mental Health, Orygen 6
Cost to hold a child in youth detention
NSW Govt spends $713,940 p/a to hold a child in youth detention, including those detained under Sect 28 of the Bail Act simply because they are homeless and cannot provide an appropriate bail address.Pam Barker, former CEO YFoundations
Deloitte report improved life outcomes by extending care to 21
One of the most startling findings in this report by Deloitte Access Economics is uncovering the very significant improved life outcomes of simply extending care supports until the age of 21. It will halve the rate of homelessness for care leavers and more than double the rate of educational achievement. For young people leaving care, these reforms would also see significant reductions in the rates of:
- mental illness;
- interaction with the criminal justice system;
- alcohol and drug dependency; and
- lost wellbeing.
Young people who have been in Out Of Home Care (OOHC) are among the most vulnerable cohorts in Australia. They are more likely to experience homelessness, mental health issues, substance abuse and engagement with the criminal justice system, and are less likely to pursue post-school education or to be employed. A survey of NSW care leavers found that within one year of leaving care around 35% of young people had experienced homelessness.
The analysis found that young people who stay in care until the age of 21 experienced the following 18 Extending care to 21 years in New South Wales | Commercial-in-confidence outcomes relative to those who leave care at 18 years of age:
- Homelessness halved from 39% to 19.5%;
- Rate of teen pregnancy reduced from 16.6% to 10.2%;
- Educational engagement increased from 7.0% to 16.3%, for non-parents;
- Hospitalisation rates reduced from 29.2% to 19.2%.
- Rate of mental illness reduced from 54.4% to 30.1%;
- Rate of smoking reduced from 56.8% to 24.9%;
- Interaction with the criminal justice system reduced from 16.3% to 10.4%;
- Alcohol and drug dependence rates reduced from 15.8% to 2.5%; and
- Lost wellbeing due to mental illness and substance abuse reduced from 54.4% to 30.1%.
Furthermore, the analysis found that extending care to the age of 21 is estimated to generate a return of $2.10 for every $1 spent on the program. When wellbeing costs are included, the return on investment increases to $3.40 for every $1 spent. 7
For all of the above reasons a group of concerned organisations and individuals established the HomeStretch Campaign to urge all state and territory governments to provide an option to extend the care to any young person needing or seeking to remain in care until 21 years. Giving young people in state care the extended care option will provide them with increased chances to make the right start in life and enjoy a better long term life outcome.
You can join the 21,000 Australians who have signed up in support of Home Stretch #makeit21. Click here to read more: https://thehomestretch.org.au
NSW will soon be the only jurisdiction in Australia where automatic state support for children in foster, kinship or residential care ceases at 18, after Queensland announced in June it would extend state care to 21 from next July. 8 Now we need to get the NSW government on board to raise the age of support to 21.
The Burdekin Association has signed the pledge along with many others and urges others to do the same.
Why not Take the pledge now.
Create Foundation and Makeit21
CREATE Foundation is the national consumer body representing the voices of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience and launched a campaign using the hashtag #itsyourturnNSW #makeit21 to help young people transitioning from care to adulthood have their voices heard.
CREATE Foundation video series – transitioning from care