Simple social welfare reform to foster social and economic wellbeing for the most vulnerable

Leaving care
Thursday 26 July, 1340 – 1400


Paul McDonald
Anglicare Victoria

Too many young people leaving out-of-home care experience poor transitions to adulthood and unsatisfactory life outcomes, due to premature termination of care at the age of 18.

The evidence and the research of outcomes for care leavers when care is extended until 21 years are evident, while the moral obligation is obvious.

While 50% of young people, nationally between 18–24 years have never left the family home, all young people under state care have their care terminated at 18 years. As a result of care arrangements ceasing at age 18, half become homeless, involved with the criminal justice system, unemployed or a new parent within the first 12 months of leaving state care. The latest national youth homelessness survey found that 63% of homeless youth had recently been exited from state care.

International evaluations, where care is extended to 21 years, have demonstrated remarkable results: halving the homelessness rates and doubling education participation for this cohort.

These outcomes are similar to the expected outcomes articulated in the landmark Australian study on the costs and benefits of extending care to 21 by Deloitte Access Economics. We could also see halving in homelessness rates, reduction in arrests and drug dependence, tripling in education participation, improved mental health and other social benefits. In economic terms there would be a return up to $2.69 for every dollar invested.

As the largest parent, terminating care at the age of 18 is not suitable, moral, nor justifiable for the most vulnerable youth in our society.