Urgent commitment needed for successful program preventing youth homelessness
Mission Australia is calling on Federal Government to urgently commit to refunding a vital program which prevents young people becoming homeless.
A report released today by the community services provider shows the Reconnect program had considerable positive impact on clients’ personal wellbeing, housing permanency and family wellbeing.
Reconnect aims to prevent at-risk young people becoming homeless with a focus on family reconciliation where possible. Reconnect works to ensure that young people are able to access secure accommodation, stabilise their living situation, maintain family relationships and reengage or increase engagement with employment, education, training and the wider community.
After at least two months in Mission Australia’s Reconnect program:
- Client’s personal wellbeing improved by 9.5%
- Young people’s permanency of housing improved by 17.7%
- Clients indicating that they did not have support in a time of crisis reduced by 7.1%
- Levels of family cohesion improved considerably. Young people reporting their family's ability to get along is 'poor': Decrease of 37.9%; family's ability to get along is 'very good': Increase of 18.7%
Catherine Yeomans, CEO Mission Australia said the research showed the significant positive contribution that Reconnect is having on young people’s lives, their families and the wider community.
However, it is uncertain whether Reconnect will be refunded beyond June 2017 despite strong evidence that it works.
“We’d urgently ask the Federal Government to guarantee a further five years of funding for this vital program and expand the program to additional locations of high child and youth homelessness.
We are currently in limbo with clients unsure whether they will be able to access the support in six months’ time. Unfortunately there are very few programs like this helping vulnerable young people in the community,” Ms Yeomans added.
“There are so many benefits from this type of early intervention work, not least preventing vulnerable young people becoming chronically homelessness which has far reaching consequences. Homeless young people have a much higher incidence of reported self-injury and attempted suicide, worse general health, a disrupted education, a greater likelihood of leaving school early and significantly higher unemployment rates than their peers.
“Prevention is also more cost effective for government because costs increase as problems worsen and become more difficult to resolve.”
A joint report Mission Australia released in April 2016, the Cost of Youth Homelessness study showed that preventing young people from becoming homeless in the first place could save governments an estimated $626 million per year across the youth justice and health services systems alone.
Ms Yeomans said: “We need a strong, early commitment from governments to provide flexible, long-term and adequate funding to work in a way that keeps children and young safe and housed. Fragmented and often short-term investment by governments is placing a strain on youth-focused services across the sector.
“With funding certainty and adequacy we can continue to achieve great things for and with our young people, who are after all, the future of Australia and deserve every opportunity to live fulfilling independent lives.”
Mission Australia urges the Commonwealth Government to immediately guarantee an extension of funding for Reconnect for five years.
“We also recommend an extension of resources for additional staff in existing Reconnect services, particularly in communities with high levels of homelessness risk, socioeconomic disadvantage and child protection involvement; and to expand the program to additional locations of high child and youth homelessness.”
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