Government to raise age of care and protection to 21

Image: iStock

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has announced plans to raise the age of care and protection for children to 21, with transition support and advice available up to age 25.

The Ministry of Social Development's Update 19 October 2016: Transition to Independence Support provides a brief outline of the two cabinet papers outlining the proposed legislation.

The first Cabinet paper, Transition to Independence – from 18-21 years of age, includes the following changes:

  • "new purpose statements and principles to guide decision-making that enables young people to successfully take up the opportunities of adulthood
  • amendments to create a right for a young person to remain in, or return to care up to the age of 21, either with an existing or former caregiver or an alternative caregiver
  • amendments to extend existing transition advice and assistance to age 21 for young people leaving care, court wardship or a youth justice residential placement
  • providing financial assistance to the caregiver, taking into account the young person’s individual circumstances.
  • monitoring of the living arrangements against specific care standards"

The second Cabinet paper, Transition to independence – discretion to support young people up to age 25, includes the following changes:

  • "extending discretion for transition advice and assistance to be provided up to age 25, with a particular focus on those with higher and more complex needs
  • ensuring that reasonable efforts are made to remain in contact with young people after they leave care up to the age of 21"

Ms Tolley said Government will be trying to attract more caregivers in the months and years ahead.

Cabinet has agreed to the proposed changes. Next steps include the Minister reporting back to Cabinet on the shape of possible financial assistance for caregiving, and on a likely phased-in approach for raising the age of care to 21 starting in 2018.

Legislation is currently going through Parliament raising the age of care and support to a young person’s 18th birthday, which will come into effect from April 2017.

The proposed changes are part of the current reforms to Child Youth and Family (see also further reforms).

Many individuals and agencies have stated their support for the proposal including Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft.

The importance of adequately funding the changes has also been emphasised. Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Jan Logie said "The real test for these reforms will come at Budget time when we will see whether the Government is willing to commit the money needed to make them work."

Labour's spokesperson for children Jacinda Ardern and Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft support the change. They have also said they hope the wider reforms will include raising the youth justice age to 18.

Media

State care age lifting to 21, Newshub, 19.10.2016

Age children can stay in state care rising to 21, NZ Herald, 19.10.2016