Foster care support - a better start to life

If elected in 2018 a State Liberal Government will make foster care and kinship care payments available for young people up to 21 years of age.

No Support For Foster Carers

At any given time in South Australia, there are over 3,000 children and young people in out of home care, with the vast majority of these being in either foster care or kinship care.

While foster carers and kinship carers are provided with some government financial support while they care for a child under the age of 18, once this milestone birthday passes all government support for the carer ends.

Foster carers who love their children are simply unable to afford continuing to house and provide for their charges. Others simply shoulder the cost burden themselves, which leaves them less able to assist other, younger foster children.

This leads to young people, many barely out of school, being left to fend for themselves. Many end up homeless, and some turn to crime to survive.

The National Swinburne study on youth homelessness found that 63% of Australia’s homeless young people were care leavers. This has led to very poor life outcomes. Figures show that up to 50% of care leavers will be in jail, unemployed, homeless or a new parent soon after leaving care.

The termination of care by State Governments at 18 years of age is also out-dated and inconsistent with the current trend of parenting that sees most young people staying at home well into their twenties.

As the cost of living rises, it is unrealistic to expect young people to survive on their own the minute they turn 18 with no parental or familial support.

Not only does this policy of ending care payments at 18 have a devastating impact on the lives of our most vulnerable young people, it also has a significant cost to government.

The cost of providing services for homelessness and public housing, health and mental health services and the potential cost of imprisonment are massive.

A Deloitte Access Economics study revealed that governments would actually save money by investing in extending care from 18 to 21 years. The study showed that for every dollar spent on extending support to age 21, Australian jurisdictions would save between $1.40 and $2.69, by lowering the costs of social security benefits, hospitalisation and the justice system.

The State Liberals' Plan

If elected in 2018 a State Liberal Government will make foster care and kinship care payments available for young people up to 21 years of age.

This will provide some of the most vulnerable young people in our community with the extra security they need to branch out into the workforce, attend university or gain further training.

The policy will provide the opportunity for young people to remain in their foster care or kinship care placement through to 21 years if they so choose, by ensuring the provision of reimbursements to be paid to carers.

This will place young people in state foster care and kinship care on the right pathway into young adulthood. International research has shown that countries which extend the care experiences for young people have seen the homeless rate for this group halved and have also seen a doubling of engagement in the education system.

Our policy will also be a cost saving for government, as there will need to be less support services provided for young people who would previously end up sleeping rough or in the justice system.

This policy is in keeping with commitments made in our 2036 manifesto to always protect the most vulnerable people in our community, especially our children and young people.

While this policy is about removing barriers that keep our children in out of home care from achieving their best lives, it is also about allowing government the flexibility to move with the times and update their policy settings to reflect changing societal values.

The whole community benefits when our young people are safe, secure and in loving environments. We want to ensure that young people who have suffered a hard start in life are able to get on their feet as they approach adulthood.

We have listened to the caregivers and stakeholders on this important issue, which is why we are committed to implementing it if elected in 2018.

It is the right thing to do.

You can read the full policy document here