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This is evidenced through national and international research that concludes that this group are significantly more likely to experience housing instability or homelessness, be unemployed and earn lower wages, have poorer educational outcomes (including early school leaving), be involved in the criminal justice system, experience poor physical and mental health, and have issues with substance abuse. While the high vulnerability of young care leavers is clearly documented and understood, the critical resources and supports needed to significantly improve life outcomes and change the trajectory for this particular group of young people are historically limited and somewhat disjointed.
Churches of Christ in Queensland has contracted its first social benefit bond (SSB) with the Queensland Government. A Social Benefit Bond is an outcomes-based arrangement involving the government, private investors and a service provider. Through this strategy, Churches of Christ in Queensland (CofCQ) will be delivering the Youth CONNECT program addressing the area of
homelessness specifically for young people who have, or are, transitioning from statutory care.
Westpac Banking Corporation (Westpac) has partnered with Social Outcomes to support Churches of Christ in Queensland, by raising $5 million from private investors to contribute to the Youth CONNECT program in Queensland over six and a half years. The CofCQ Youth CONNECT program is the first social benefit bond in the world to tackle the issue of homelessness, experienced by a significant proportion of young people transitioning from statutory care to independence and adulthood.
While they may face the prospect of many poor outcomes, there are also significant opportunities to intervene early and turn the course of their young lives around.3 Youth CONNECT will engage with young people and support them to build the capacity and resilience they need to create a stronger future for themselves and, in turn, help build a better future for the community as a whole.
By definition, resilient individuals are confident; they are better able to activate their own strengths and call on personal resources in times of stress or when faced with adversity and are less affected by negative influences.4 In the context of the Youth CONNECT program, resilience includes the measure of positive personal resources available within an individual to support the maintenance of safe and stable housing, including practical life skills, money management, engagement in education, positive social/community connection and self-advocacy.
The Youth CONNECT program has been developed based on research and evidence relating to this group of young people, with the support of internal and external professional expertise and practice wisdom, particularly from the University of the Sunshine Coast. This knowledge and evidence base provides the foundational program components that are considered essential to effecting sustainable and long-term positive change in the lives of vulnerable young people.
The Youth CONNECT program has been developed with a ‘housing first’ approach, and combined with equal emphasis placed on supporting young people to develop key resilience factors of education, employment and community connection to successfully change their trajectory to achieving sustained ‘homefulness’. This is supported through the delivery of a comprehensive case management framework focusing on therapeutic and practical strategies and actions to build resilience factors evidenced to significantly improve life outcomes and sustain long-term health and
wellbeing well into adulthood, while reducing the risk of future homelessness.
Young people participating in the Youth CONNECT program will have a range of multiple and complex needs, will have been in the out-of-home care system, will be (or be at risk of being) homeless, and require intensive support to increase resiliency factors for improved life-long wellbeing and decrease the risk of current and future homelessness. Participants will engage in the program for up to three years, be supported with access to safe, affordable and stable housing; education, training and employment opportunities; will develop formal and informal support networks and engage in personal development activities such as parenting, mental health and drug and alcohol programs.
For young people accessing Youth CONNECT the development of resilience to homelessness will be demonstrated through the following key indicators:
Over the six and a half year period of the bond, Youth CONNECT will engage 300 young people aged 15 to 25 years who have been in out-of-home care and are at risk of homelessness. The program will
commence at the end of 2017 to improve housing pathways to eligible young people in the surrounding areas of Townsville, Logan and Ipswich.