Children who live in out-of-home care – such as foster care – are 3 times as likely as other young people to receive income support payments at ages 16–25, according to a new study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Income support receipt for young people transitioning from out-of-home care, provides new insights on service use and broader life circumstances leading up to and after leaving out-of-home care for 32,000 young Australians born between 1990 and 1998.
‘Out-of-home-care, including foster, relative, kinship and residential care, may be used as an alternative for children who are unable to live with their families,’
‘These children may be affected by complex circumstances (such as exposure to disadvantage, vulnerability and trauma) that contribute to their placement in out-of-home-care, but may also influence their need for further services, such as financial government assistance through income support payments,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms. Sushma Mathur.
Nearly 3 in 5 (59%) young people who had been in out-of-home-care received income support payments at ages 16–25, compared with 1 in 5 (21%) other young people.
Receipt of these payments may reflect a variety of circumstances, such as those requiring support due to studying or training, looking for work or unable to work due to disability or caring responsibilities, or those experiencing personal crises such as family violence or contact with the justice system.
‘Compared to other Australians in the same age group, receipt of certain payments was much higher among young people who had been in out-of-home-care, such as Crisis Payment (12 times as high), Disability Support Pension (5 times as high), and parenting and unemployment payments (each 4 times as high),’ Ms. Mathur said.
Young people who have been in out-of-home-care are more likely to stay on income support payments for longer than other young people – 54% spent more than three-quarters of their time between their 18th birthday and the end of the study period (30 June 2016, or up to age 25) on income support compared with 14% of other young people of the same age.
Young people who had been in out-of-home care were less likely than other young people to remain on student payments between their 18th and 21st birthdays (16% compared with 32%). However, they were more likely to remain on unemployment payments between these ages than other young people of the same age (49% compared with 36%).
‘Young people may be particularly vulnerable in the time after they leave care, as they adjust to independent living, often with limited support networks.’
‘The insights from this report help build a picture of service use and broader life circumstances leading up to and after leaving care, that can be used to inform better policy and practice and develop stronger support systems for young people as they transition out of care and into independence,’ said Ms. Mathur.