Pathways from out-of-home care

Guy Johnson, Kristin Natalier, Phillip Mendes, Mark Liddiard, Stian Thoresen, Andrew Hollows, Naomi Bailey

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Housing is the main core of your life. It makes everything else work. (Francis, currently homeless.)This project focuses on the housing experiences and outcomes of young people leaving state care. It is the first Australian study to specifically examine the connection between accommodation and young people's transition to independent living. The project aims to inform policy and service practice to promote positive and sustainable housing outcomes for young people ageing out of the state out-of-home care system.The research is guided by the primary research question: Which support model(s) most effectively facilitate positive housing outcomes for young people leaving care? The project also responds to the following four linked questions: → What are the housing experiences, needs and outcomes of care leavers? → Do the accommodation experiences and needs of care leavers vary by the age people leave care and/or by biographical circumstances? → What forms of housing assistance and transitional support are currently offered, and to what extent do care-leavers and service providers assess such assistance and support as effective? → What are the minimum standards, best practices and policy options with respect to care leavers' housing needs?The project contributes to current and future policy by: → Identifying which accommodation options are best suited to meet the diverse needs of care leavers. → Developing a best practice framework for integrating housing and transitional support services for care leavers. → Identifying opportunities for integrated policy responses for care leavers, with a specific focus on appropriate housing and support programs assisting care leavers' transition to independence. → Exploring the broader strategic housing implications that emerge from the research findings.The research was conducted between early 2008 and late 2009 with the data being gathered between September 2008 and March 2009. Interviews were conducted with 771 young people who had been in state out-of-home care in Western Australia (n=35) and Victoria (n=42), in inner city, suburban and regional locations. Participants had to satisfy three criteria to be included in the study: 1. They had been in care at some stage in their lives. 2. They were no longer in care. 3. They were between 18-25 years of age. The age restriction was based on the reasoning that post-care services are a relatively new policy initiative in Australia and that care leavers over the age of 25 would not have had access to post-care support.This project is significant in light of the poor housing outcomes experienced by young people leaving state care. It is well recognised that young people are severely disadvantaged by the structure of the housing market - their low wages relative to housing costs and high unemployment means that they have limited housing opportunities. For those with the least social and economic resources the consequences can be catastrophic. Care leavers are among the most vulnerable populations in our society - they have limited economic and social resources to draw on and consequently accessing and maintaining accommodation is one of the 'most difficult tasks confronting care leavers' (McDowall 2008, p.50).Studies have shown that housing is a core element in the trajectories and life chances of young people leaving state care. Local and international research indicates that a lack of appropriate housing for care leavers contributes to disproportionately high rates of housing instability and homelessness among care leavers. In turn, housing instability is linked to high levels of drug and alcohol abuse (Maunders, Liddell, Liddell & Green 1999), poor mental and physical heath (Cashmore & Paxman 1996) and considerable educational and employment deficits (Clare 2006). Identifying the needs of young people and responding with appropriate policies has the potential to improve the lives of young people leaving care.The focus and findings of the project are also important from a policy perspective. Housing authorities around the country are under considerable pressure in light of the needs of vulnerable and low income households. In Australia, the Federal Government has implemented a range of programs to increase the supply of affordable housing (for example, the NAHA and NRAS), but these initiatives are unlikely to meet demand. States have also implemented and funded a range of post care support programs, but there remains limited dedicated housing available to care leavers. What accommodation there is, is often poorly configured to meet the varying needs of care leavers. The lack of accommodation and support options for care leavers has significant implications for both Federal and state governments who have agreed to increase the number of people who exit care into secure, affordable housing as part of a broader commitment to reducing homelessness and improve care leavers transition to independent living. The links between housing and the social and economic outcomes listed above remind us that housing policies will impact upon the demand for, and configuration of, a range of services. Bluntly, the life time cost due to poor outcomes among care leavers is estimated at $738 741 per person (Forbes, Inder & Raman 2006) - costs that will be significantly reduced if care leavers had access to appropriate housing and support services.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherAustralian Housing and Urban Research Institute Melbourne, Australia
Number of pages81
ISBN (Print)9781921610387
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAHURI Final Report
PublisherAustralian Housing and Urban Research Institute
ISSN (Print)1834-7223


  • homelessness
  • out-of-home care
  • state care
  • pathways
  • young people
  • Young people
  • Homelessness
  • State care
  • Pathways
  • Out-of-home care


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