Young people leaving care need a safety net

With the rising popularity of university study and increasing rental prices, young people are choosing to stay at home for longer than previous generations, often into their 20s. A third of those who move out will return to the family home at least once before they’re 34. However, accommodation for a young person in state care ends the day they turn 18, and the overwhelming majority can’t call on family support. Of the 400 young people aged 16-18 who leave state care each year, around half will become homeless.

Research into leaving care shows us that people who have stable care arrangements and leave care at a later age go on to establish more stable lives post care. We know that many people who experience long term homelessness have been in state care as a young person. The experience in care has a profound impact on a person, and it’s essential that young people are provided with the support they need to establish independent adult lives.

CHP’s solution: leaving care housing guarantee

The private rental market is currently very tight. The following statistics are based on the Department of Human Services’ Rental Affordability report from March 2014:

  • Median weekly rental in Melbourne = $365
  • Youth Allowance = $205 + $42 rent assistance if they’re sharing

If a young person was sharing the median priced house or apartment with one other person this would see them spending $180 on rent, leaving them a total of $67 per week for living expenses. Looking to the outer suburbs that were once more affordable, the situation isn’t much better. For example, in Dandenong the median weekly rental is $300 which under the same scenario, would leave a Youth Allowance recipient with just $55 per week for living expenses. For more on the real costs of renting for young people in Melbourne suburbs check out CHP’s rental costs spreadsheet

To help make sure all young people leaving care can get into and keep housing, CHP is calling on all political parties to commit to funding a leaving care housing guarantee. This guarantee would deliver a maximum payment of $4,160 per year to each young person leaving care, to help them secure housing. It might sound like a lot, but when the lifetime cost of youth homelessness is estimated to be over $700,000 per person, it’s a genuine investment in prevention. The payment could be used for a range of support methods, including:

  • A rent guarantee so landlords are more likely to rent to young people
  • A rent supplement while finishing study and unable to work
  • A payment to call on in times of financial stress

CHP’s proposal would ensure that young people who leave state care have a backup, the role that immediate or extended family play for many young people when they leave home.

A number of leaving care support programs currently operate in Victoria, but they lack the resources to establish and maintain stable housing for these young people. CHP’s leaving care housing guarantee would work with other leaving care supports to ensure these young people can get and keep a home.