How Queensland Govt could save millions with small change

QUEENSLAND could curb homelessness, crime, teen pregnancy, mental illness, alcohol and drug dependency and save hundreds of millions of dollars if it extended the age of foster care from 18 to 21.

A coalition of 160 child welfare organisations - called Home Stretch - says the Palaszczuk Government could save itself $55 million over four years by spending just $20 million on extra support as carers give a shocking insight into what happens to teenage foster kids.

As the state undertakes a review of its child protection and foster care legislation, The Courier-Mail can reveal what happened to the 2142 18-year-olds who timed out of Queensland's foster care system last year.

It’s predicted the rate of homelessness among ex-foster children would be halved under the plan.
It’s predicted the rate of homelessness among ex-foster children would be halved under the plan.

Within 12 months, 39 per cent were homeless, 46 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls were in the criminal justice system, 54 per cent were battling mental health issues, 17 per cent were pregnant and 29 per cent were unemployed, according to Deloitte Access Economics analysis for Home Stretch.

The organisation's chair Paul McDonald said people should be horrified by the statistics, and consider how their own children might fare if they were pushed out at 18 with no emotional or financial support.

"At the moment, you could be six months pregnant, have autism spectrum disorder, not have a cent in the bank or you could have no housing to go to," he said.

Deloitte has found the probability of alcohol or drug dependence would decrease from 15.8 per cent to 2.5 per cent if support was extended through to age 21.
Deloitte has found the probability of alcohol or drug dependence would decrease from 15.8 per cent to 2.5 per cent if support was extended through to age 21.

"It doesn't matter, the system says the state is withdrawing support despite your circumstances because of your birth date.

"The state is the parent of these children … we're supposed to be acting in the best interest of the child.

"What are we doing here? Are we growing up people to become homeless?"

Deloitte estimates a $2.4 billion hit to the states and Commonwealth over the next decade if nothing changes.

It calculated Queensland's return on every dollar invested would be $2.69 through savings in areas like health and criminal justice and through the boost to education and employment.

Mr McDonald said it's believed one third to one half of young people would take up the state's offer, costing $20 million over four years, but saving the state $55 million - a total saving of $35 million.

Child Safety Minister Di Farmer. Picture Glenn Hampson
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer. Picture Glenn Hampson

Victoria, Tasmania, SA, WA and ACT have already announced changes and New Zealand, the UK and US already support young people until 21.

Child Safety Minister Di Farmer said the Government would extend care to 19-year-olds from next financial year, costing $2.39 million.

"The Palaszczuk Government recognises young people need access to support well beyond their 18th birthday, and young people coming out of care can be particularly vulnerable during this time," she said.

"Every child deserves a safe and supportive home, and our review into the Child Protection Act is part of our bold reform agenda to make this a reality."



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