Over 3,000 children and young people under the age of 25 were counted as homeless on Census night in 2016 in Western Australia.
With alarming statistics such as these the 10-Year Strategy to End Homelessness in Western Australia outlines the need to develop Action Plans tailored to finding solutions covering children and young people.
To assist in understanding this cohort better, youth homelessness was the focus of the Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (Alliance) Pulse Meeting on Wednesday, 5 December. These meetings are hosted by the Alliance to provide stakeholders the opportunity to share updates and work together on solving issues or new ideas.
Over 25 stakeholders attended from a variety of government and community organisations with knowledge in the space to discuss several issues. WAAEH Project Officer, Kai Schweizer who is also a peer educator at the Youth Affairs Council of WA helped to lead the group discussion.
“If you have a look at the strategy it says we need to write a cohort action plan for young people, this meeting today is getting people who are willing to be engaged in the process of contributing to an Action Plan,” said Mr Schweizer.
“The Strategy itself is quite overarching of what ideas we have for the broader homelessness solutions but in order to get that action going specifically for young people we need a very pragmatic document which commits all of us to making these changes happen.
“We can’t proceed with the action plan without young people so it’s important we engage young people as a large part of that process and have them supporting the writing of that document.”
From here several topics were split into group discussions.
• The benefits of using an Acuity Scale.
In this discussion participants were shown an Acuity Scale designed for use with homeless young people in another country. The Scale prioritises care by severity of illness and the homeless situation. Discussions resolved around if it could be used as part of the Strategy Action Plan if all community providers could agree to its use. An across-the-board Acuity Scale could bring benefits, such as assisting with a no wrong door approach, and cutting down on the amount of times an Acuity Scale needs to be performed on a homeless person if information were to be shared.
• The definition of young people.
The Action Plan could benefit with a concrete age definition of young people. Currently age is used extensively as an indicator of eligibility to access many supports from Government services and community organisations.
As an example, subject to the passage of legislation, Newstart* allowance and Sickness Allowance entitlements will increase to 25 years of age (currently you need to be at least 22) for new applicants. How could this affect youth homelessness?
• Lived Experience
Much of the work the Alliance does involves those with lived experience. The Strategy continually encourages the need to consult and design with people with lived experience in order to reach the best outcomes.
Can you assist? Pulse meetings are an opportunity to contribute to planning and development, project ideas, and addressing key challenges in an open space co-working format.
Check out our meetings in 2019 and register here.
*UPDATE: At the time of publishing the Government was considering this measure. Now it is categorised in previously announced measures that were never implemented. The Government has made the decision not to proceed. Detail here.