Severed connections could see cracks grow
Budget cuts will leave hundreds of vulnerable teenagers at risk of falling through the cracks, insiders say.
National youth support program Youth Connections is on the chopping block, and will soon cease its important role in helping disengaged 14 to 18-year-olds reconnect with education, work and training.
Centres across Australia will begin to close by the end of the month, after the Federal Government decided not to renew funding for the initiative in the May budget.
The Federal Government has made no comment on the matter, except for a statement put out by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Senator Scott Ryan, which said it was a state government issue.
“It is the responsibility of state and territory governments to ensure that young people stay in school until they are 17 as per their own legislation,” the statement said.
“Around 74 per cent of the young people supported by the Youth Connections program were under 17 years old and thus a state and territory responsibility.
“Youth Connections providers are required to refer young people to appropriate alternative support services before the end of the year.”
Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the state would try.
“We are working hard to make sure our schools can continue to provide a range of initiatives to support at-risk youth to stay at school, to re-engage in education or training, or to transition to employment,” he said in a statement.
The ABC has spoken to a number of staff and young people involved in the Youth Connections program, and their comments show the risks that will come from the important safety net being taken away.
“I just don't understand why they're taking such a good resource away from the young people, because other than places like this - what's next for us... jails and institutions?” asked Josh Long, who had been in the program for several years.
“Programs like this is what really helps kids away from mental institutions, jails, psych wards, and it just really diverts people because it gives them something else to do.”
Youth centre worker Angela Willock said being made redundant was not the worst part.
“Our team has lost our positions so we're all unemployed - but I think more importantly for us that means we have caseloads of young people that we need to figure out what we're going to do with and try and find ways that they're going to be supported beyond us finishing,” she said.
“We'll go on and find other jobs, but what do we do with all the young people who are left hanging there?”