More than 1 in 2 Australians who were in out-of-home care received income support payments in young adulthood

Reflecting the challenges faced by young Australians who were in out-of-home care – such as foster care – more than half (55%) receive income support payments in their mid-late 20’s (ages 25–30), according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

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 young people may be affected by complex life circumstances (such as exposure to disadvantage and trauma) that contribute to their placement in out-of-home care, and may also influence their need for further support, such as financial assistance through income support payments.

Income support receipt for young people transitioning from out-of-home care, looks at income support and other payments received by around 45,000 young Australians born between 1990 and 2001 before and after they left out-of-home care.

‘The type of payment received provides insight into the recipient’s life circumstances, such as requiring support to further their education or training, looking for employment, being unable to work due to disability or caring responsibilities, or experiencing crises such as family violence,’ said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James.

‘In the time after leaving care, young people may be particularly vulnerable as they adjust to independent living, often with limited support networks.’

The report found that receipt of income support was highest as young people were transitioning from care; at ages 18–20, around 3 in 5 (62–64%) received income support compared with around 1 in 4 (23–25%) Australians population at the same age, followed by a slight decline at age 30 (54% compared to 14%).

Not only were those in care more likely to receive income support, they were also more likely to receive it for longer. Almost 1 in 2 (49%) received income support payments for 6 or more years, compared with 11% of the Australian population.

The report examined transitions between payments at key life stages and found that young people who had been in out-of-home care were more likely to stop receiving student payments at younger ages and more likely to move to unemployment and parenting payments than the Australian population of the same age.

Of those who received a student payment at age 19, 29% continued to receive a student payment at age 21, 32% had moved to an unemployment payment, and 5% had moved to parenting payments. For the Australian population, almost 1 in 2 (47%) were still on student payments and fewer had moved to other payments (11% unemployment and 1.3% parenting payments).

Receipt of income support was also found to be higher for females than males, particularly in older ages.

‘At age 30, 63% of females were receiving income support, compared with 45% of males, largely driven by the receipt of parenting payments among females,’ Mr. James said.

This report can inform the development of stronger support systems for young people as they transition out of care and into adulthood.

This work highlights the insights that can be gained from data linkage, and future work will aim to include additional data collections, such as housing and access to homelessness services, to provide a more holistic understanding of the life circumstances and challenges experienced by those leaving care.

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