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The importance of the Home Stretch Campaign

The average age of young people leaving a home is 23 for women and 24 for men.[1] But if you are in out-of-home care you have to leave at 18. Why do our most vulnerable young people have to fend for themselves at such a young age.? This is the question the Home Stretch Campaign has been asking over 10 years.

The Home Stretch Campaign is seeking to extend to the current leaving care arrangements for young people in out-of-home care from 18 until 21 years.  At the moment, that involves 46,000 children who are in care across Australia, with 30,600 of them having been in out-of-home care for two years or more[2].

Out-of-home care is the care of children and young people up to 18 years who are unable to live with their families (often due to child abuse and neglect). It involves the placement of a child or young person with foster carers or in residential home care. The homes built by the Property Industry Foundation are residential homes that are run by our charity partners.

Research shows that when young people leave care at 18, 29% are unemployed within the first 12 months compared with a national average of 9.7%. Additionally, 63% of all homeless young people under 25 have been in out-of-home care at some point in their lives.[3]

The extra three years can make a huge difference in the life of any young person, even more so if they have been in care. More time is spent on social transitions like relationships, community participating, housing, health and wellbeing, as well as the development of practical skills required for independent living, like education, training and employment. Much of this work is done by our charity partners like Stepping Stone House in NSW, BABI Youth and Family Services in QLD, and The Lighthouse Foundation in VIC who help young people transition to independence. Your support has helped us to support them.

We all know that when young people live in safe housing and have the right support, the benefits are felt like a ripple-effect across society as they find employment, create stable relationships and contribute to their community. International research shows that education participation doubles and homelessness rates are halved for young people coming out of care at the age of 21.

It has taken over 10 years, but in the last 12 months the Home Stretch Campaign has reached a tipping point and achieved the following:

  • Victoria – Universal extended care to 21 years (all OOHC and legislation underway).
  • South Australia – Extended care to 21 years (foster and kinship, trialing residential care).
  • Tasmania – Extended care to 21 years (foster and kinship).
  • Western Australia – Universal extended care to 21 years.
  • Australian Territory Capital – Extended care to 21 years.
  • Northern Territory – Drafting legislation for Extended Care to 21 years.
  • Queensland – Universal extended care to 21 years (from July 2023).
  • New South Wales – No commitment.

Together, organisations and individuals supporting the Home Stretch Campaign have moved the dial for these young people in need, but as you can see, there is still more to do. Especially in New South Wales.

“At Stepping Stone House we have seen first-hand the positive impact of extending support for youth leaving care.  When we treat our out of home care youth in the same way we do our own children, they too will complete their education, gain employment and become the very best they can be.  1200 NSW young people age out of care each year. We need to patch the piece meal support in NSW and follow the lead of all other Australian states and extend care to 21 years old, it is the humane thing to do,”

Jason Juretic, CEO, Stepping Stone House

According to analysis by Deloitte[4] for Home Stretch NSW, the NSW government would more than triple their return on investment for every dollar spent on keeping young people in care until 21, and save $222 million in government services.

[1] Roger Wilkins, Esperanza Vera-Toscano, Ferdi Botha and Sarah C. Dahmann (2021) The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 19. Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, the University of Melbourne.
[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021. Child protection Australia 2019–20. Child welfare series no. 74. Cat. no. CWS 78. Canberra: AIHW.
[3] MacKenzie, D., Flatau, P., Steen, A., & Thielking, M. (2016). The cost of youth homelessness in Australia research briefing. Australian Policy online.
[4] Home Stretch – Extending care to 21 years in New South Wales (2018). Analysis by Deloitte: Commissioned by Home Stretch Campaign NSW