‘Broken’ extended care system needs urgent reform
Synod 2021 has been encouraged to advocate for the NSW government to do more to improve the life outcomes of young people who are part of the state’s out-of-home care system.
Synod members heard that the NSW Government is lagging behind other states and territories that now provide extended care support to the age of 21. In contrast, in NSW young people must leave care at 18 which many feel it is akin to ‘being pushed off a cliff’.
Doug Taylor is Uniting’s Director, Missions, Communities and Social Impact. He said that each night 15,000 young people were in care due to abuse, poverty or other challenges.
“Uniting and Wesley Mission cares for 1000 young people, but we do this work in a broken system … almost half of young people when they leave care become homeless and one in two experience unemployment or substance abuse … but there is an opportunity for the church to be part of movement for change,” Mr Taylor said.
The Advocacy report said having a system that provides every young person in out-of-home care a guarantee of care until 21 as one of a range of options available, better mirrors the safety-net most young people have and need.
The report calls for Synod to endorse the “Homestretch” campaign to increase the age of foster care support from 18 to 21 and acknowledges that young people in out of home care deserve more support to the age of 21, through new innovations such including a youth development coach from age 15, like that provided now within the extended care programs run by the NSW and ACT Extended Care program.
The Advocacy report affirmed the role of advocacy and work for social justice, peace and the environment as an essential element of the church’s mission and of Christian discipleship. And online delegates heard updates on key advocacy campaigns.
Shane Slade from Engadine Uniting Church spoke about the Fair Treatment campaign which was now in its fifth year. He spoke about what had been achieved by Uniting Church members and congregations including a meeting with the NSW Treasurer hosted by Epping Uniting Church which was critical to new funding being announced for a much-needed drug rehabilitation facility in Dubbo.
The Advocacy paper also outlined successful activities in support of its Synod Climate Action Strategy and initiatives to listen to and acknowledge the voices of First Nation’s people. The Advocacy team will continue to work with First Nations people to determine the ongoing priorities of these campaigns in line with the Synod strategy.
The report will be considered by discernment groups.