Rangatahi Advocates Call For Government To Prioritize Young People In Budget
This budget, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai wants the Government to focus on ensuring all young people transitioning out of care have the resources they need to thrive.
At its most basic level, this means ensuring that young people have access to good food, timely healthcare and safe and supported housing.
A recent Oranga Tamariki review of housing services for young people found that 1 in 10 young people transitioning from care or youth justice residences were living in some form of unstable accommodation upon their transition. The report also highlighted that though there were over 5000 young people eligible for transition support, only 134 supported housing places were available nationally. This discrepancy between the support on offer and the need has led to young people experiencing homelessness and living in unstable, unsafe, and inadequate housing.
VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai implores the Government, as the legal guardian and parent of care-experienced children, to act to ensure that every young person leaving care has access to safe, stable and supported accommodation for however long it is needed.
“We need to prioritize the housing crisis,” says advocate, Mary-Lynn Huxford, “When we talk about these big issues, it often feels that young people are viewed as worth less than everyone else. But it’s not ok that so many of us are struggling to survive. The whole point of welfare is so that all of us live with dignity, so that all of us can thrive.”
Young people transitioning out of care often do not have the same support structures as other rangatahi. It’s important we recognize that due to their care experience, many had their connections with their whānau severed. This means that as they leave the system, they do not have those natural supports to lean on when things get hard. It’s important we recognize that for these young people, the state is their parent, and yet young people are not getting the support they need.
As the cost of living rises, it is vital that the support available matches the need. VOYCE is concerned that current support is not adequate to meet the needs of young people, pushing many young people directly into hardship and poverty.
“When you’re making decisions about whether to buy food or pay rent, you’re not left with any chance to even begin to dream or think about your future.” Says Tupua Urlich, “You’re just trying to survive.”
As a result, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai often hears from young people leaving school and looking for work because they don’t have enough to make ends meet and they can’t afford to live on the youth payment. This raises concern that, in its current design, our welfare system is manufacturing benefit dependency for our young people.
Young people coming out of care are forced into adulthood immediately. Many don’t have the support they need, nor the safety net of whānau and community that other young people have. And yet the benefit that many need to access to survive - while they seek to finish their education and get on their feet - is valued less than that of adults.
To ensure young people have the support they need, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai wants the Government to commit to raising the Youth Payment to the same as those on the adult benefit. Currently, a single adult (25 years and over) receives $52.80 more in their payment than a young person who is living independently.
“And yet things aren’t cheaper because you’re young,” says Mary-Lynn, “A loaf of bread doesn’t cost a different amount if you’re a young person than if you’re an adult”.
In Budget 2023, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai hopes to see a renewed commitment to ensuring that all young people leaving care have access to the basics they need to not only survive, but to thrive.
VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, which stands for Voice of the Young and Care Experienced – Listen to me is an advocacy organization established in 2017. We are an independent charity organisation that helps to advocate for the approximately 6000 children with care experience (children in foster or whanau care) in New Zealand. We exist to amplify the voices of these children and ensure that they are heard – so as to positively influence their individual care and to collectively affect change in the wider care system. VOYCE was co-designed by children with care experience for children with care experience.