State government circles at-risk youth as priority, commits $58m in funding

The state government has circled at-risk youth as a priority ahead of the upcoming election, with Premier Mark McGowan pledging an $18 million boost to PCYCs across Western Australia.

The funding comes as part of a $58.6 million package to be delivered to youth programs across the state, and aims to help young people in times of crisis.

The pledge would help ensure ongoing funding certainty over the next four years for PCYCs, and allow them to continue operating throughout WA.

The package also includes $37.2 million to go towards the Homestretch program, which supports young people who would exit the state's child protection system when they turn 18 to maintain support to the age of 21.

Homestretch, a partnership between the Department of Communities and Anglicare, provides ongoing support including extensions to placements in foster care, housing guarantees, coaching and mentoring.

The government's initial trial of the program saw vastly positive results, and if re-elected they will convert it into a permanent program, meaning around 200 young people per year will be fully supported until the age of 21.

Across Australia, people who leave the state care system at the age of 18 are over-represented in homelessness statistics and in the justice system.

They are also more likely to leave education early and are prone to unemployment.

"We all know prevention is better than cure, which is why my government is committed to investing in proven programs that support those who need it and ensure they have a pathway to a positive future," Mr McGowan said.

"If re-elected, we will provide additional support to ensure at-risk young people do not slip through the cracks, to reduce the chances of interactions with the justice system.

"This $58.6 million commitment will deliver ongoing support to vital community resources like our PCYCs and ensure that support is available for those who may find themselves experiencing a crisis.

"Research has shown that young people in State care often experience difficulty once they leave the system at the age of 18. The Homestretch program has shown positive results, and will help bridge the gap that currently exists when young people leave state care."

Vasse MLA and Liberal Party deputy leader Libby Mettam said the government had not effectively delivered commitments to regional WA.

"Busselton and surrounds has been identified as one of the biggest and fastest-growing regional areas," she said.

"Four Youth Crime Intervention Officers (YCIO) are based in Bunbury and I have been appealing to the State government since 2018 for two dedicated YCIOs to be permanently based in Busselton, but this has consistently been ignored.

"There are an increasing number of vulnerable youth requiring support and management and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency."

A re-elected McGowan government has also committed to providing $3.4 million to Youth Futures to support its new Teenagers in Need of Crisis Accommodation (TINOCA 2) facility in the northern suburbs.

The expanded program will provide crisis accommodation for an additional six young people aged 15-19 at any given time, with residents being able to stay anywhere from one night up to three months depending on their situation. 



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