The Palaszczuk Government has today published two independent reports into the operation of Supervised Community Accommodation (SCA) programs, run by the Department of Youth Justice.
Overall the reports, by Griffith University and Ernst and Young, show that SCAs provide safe, secure and stable accommodation with significant wrap around services for vulnerable young people.
They also importantly highlight the role SCAs play in re-connecting young people with their families, education and other support services.
Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women Di Farmer said the reports indicated there have been some good early outcomes from SCAs, but some changes are needed to get the best value out of them.
“SCAs are one of 51 new initiatives we have been implementing and evaluating, underpinned by an unprecedented investment into youth justice of more than $550 million dollars,” she said.
“There is no one thing that will solve the issue of youth crime, and there are certainly no quick fixes – but we have taken youth justice out of the too-hard basket once and for all and we’re committed to doing things the evidence shows works to break the cycle of offending and reoffending.
“The community wants young people to be held to account for their actions, and so do we, but the community also doesn’t want to see young people reoffending.
“There are many positive stories of young people turning their lives around, reconnecting with family, and importantly, not re-offending as a result of the support provided while living in an SCA.
“It’s very early days though, and the reports indicate we need more time to be able to meaningfully evaluate the SCAs to determine their effectiveness and value for money.
“Everything we do in youth justice is focused on keeping the community safe by providing long term solutions to youth crime, but we need to know the initiatives we’re trialling are working.
“Evidence from similar initiatives in other places shows it can take two years for the model to mature.
“We’ll implement the changes recommended in the reports, and give SCAs one more year.
“If SCAs are not proving to be successful upon re-evaluation at the end of next year, we will scrap the program.”
The Ernst and Young report was specifically commissioned to analyse the cost effectiveness of the program but found incomplete, poor and insufficient data prevented reliable conclusions on whether SCAs provide value for money.
One of the key findings of the report is that any analysis of cost effectiveness needs to include avoided costs, including court costs and adult corrective detention, as well as longer term social and economic benefits.
“The reports clearly acknowledge that SCAs have the potential to improve education outcomes, increase employment rates, reduce the likelihood of homelessness and improve connections to family and kin,” Ms Farmer said.
She said the Department of Youth Justice would make changes to the criteria for admission to an SCA to ensure value for money and that they can be used to support young people at risk of entering the youth justice system with a place to stay where they can get support.
“We will consult with other agencies, including Queensland Police, to develop a best practice service model for young people who require emergency accommodation, care and support,” she said.
“We will work with police, courts, other agencies and communities to make critical changes to this program and continue to evaluate whether SCAs are truly working to reduce reoffending and youth crime across Queensland.
“We know that reforming youth justice is challenging, complex and will take time to see lasting results, but this Government is committed to longer term solutions.”