New Zealand's Bold Youth Exiting Foster Care Project: $1.53 Billion Transition-Aged Funding Over 4 Years For 3,000 Youth, $9 Million For Mentoring Services, 175 Additional Staff & 60 Housing Units


Young people leaving state care will be supported until they turn 25, thanks to a Pre-Budget funding boost.

The Wellbeing Budget will invest $153.7 million in Oranga Tamariki over four years to build a new nationwide Transition Support Service for young people leaving the care and youth justice system.

It was expected 3000 young people would be helped by the new service.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin made the announcement at VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, an advocacy service for children and young people in care, in Auckland on Sunday morning.

It would also fund 175 transition staff and 60 supported accommodation places for young people who need a "stepping stone" to transition to independent living.

The Budget would also provide $9 million over four years to provide advice and assistance to young people leaving care, up to the age of 25.

For children leaving the state's care, the transition to adulthood often comes early, abruptly, and with little in the way of a safety net, Martin said.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin said it was "wrong" support ended at 18 for young people leaving state care.

"For too long they have been left to fend for themselves with little support, in a way we would never accept for our own children when they leave home.

"It has been a huge hole in our system of care that young people didn't have this support. It's time to fix that," she said.

Martin said it was "wrong" support ended when young people turned 18.

For young people in care a "looming 18th birthday feels like a cliff edge, something to be feared and not something to be celebrated".

"Teenagers leaving care should have the right to expect what any young person would want – knowing there is someone to turn to if they need help; a warm bed to sleep in; some help and encouragement when it is needed."

Making the investment now would help break the cycle of families needing state care, Martin said. Nearly 30 per cent of children in care have parents who had also been in care.

University student Isaac Heron lived with his "incredibly supportive" foster family since he was 8, and is now flatting. He says he can't imagine navigating finding somewhere to leave and spend university breaks without the support of his family.

Isaac Heron, 19, said he had been in care "basically his whole life".

He had lived with his current foster family, who he said were "incredibly supportive", since he was 8 years old.

In his role as vice-chairman for VOYCE's youth council, he said he had met many young people who had left care and not had the same support he had.

"Some of the smallest things, like working out how to get a flat and apply for university, having somewhere to go over uni breaks and in the summer, would be so much harder – I can't imagine how I would have done it [without my family]."

Heron is now flatting and studying law and science at Otago University.

"I'm really glad other young people will now have a version of what I've been able to receive."

The transition service was originally proposed by the Modernising Child, Youth and Family Expert Panel in 2015.

The panel said young people aged 18 to 20 leaving care or a youth justice residence were more likely to have high health needs, insecure or inadequate housing and were less likely to engage with education and employment than those who had no contact with Oranga Tamariki.

They were between 20 and 80 times more likely to be involved in serious offending, five to seven times more likely to be on a benefit, and three to seven times more likely to access mental health services.

They were also 12 to 30 times more likely to access substance abuse services, two to four times more likely to be hospitalised and half as likely to achieve a tertiary qualification.

From July 1, close to 40 transition workers would be on the ground to work with eligible young people leaving care, Martin said.

They would work alongside social workers to support gradual transition from care – maintaining contact with young people until they are 21, and helping them access the advice and assistance they need to become independent.

The service would largely be provided by NGOs, iwi and Māori organisations, Martin said.