LevelUP was a project funded by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW. The project came to an end in December 2019, however MNCCLC has continued to work with vulnerable young people through our ongoing funding.
Through LevelUP, MNCCLC provided specialised legal advice, education and support to young people transitioning from out of home care (OOHC) to independence and adult legal responsibility in the Mid North Coast FACS region.
The project responded to the unique needs of young people as they transition from OOHC to independence and adult legal responsibility by tailoring services to effectively and proactively address their legal needs within the context of vulnerability they have experienced. LevelUp provided assertive, personalised and consistent legal assistance for young people by giving them access to dedicated lawyers to assist with minor and major transitions. Our solicitor provided urgent legal advice, legal education and provision of warm referrals to other legal and non-legal services and young people have regular “Legal Health checks” to ensure early intervention.
For young people moving from OOHC to adult legal responsibility, this is a key transition point in their lives. Young people transitioning from OOHC to independence are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society. Pre-care and often in-care experiences of abuse and neglect, accelerated transitions to adulthood, and a lack of ongoing support once the young people ages out of OOHC all contribute to subsequent diminished life outcomes compared to those of the general population. Many of the problems of disadvantage have a civil legal dimension. Hence, disadvantaged groups such as young people exiting OOHC, have been found to be particularly vulnerable to civil legal problems.
There has been a substantial increase over recent years in the number of children and young people entering OOHC. Of all jurisdictions, NSW currently has the highest rate of children in OOHC and there has been a significant increase in recent years in the numbers remaining in OOHC longer. Not only have the numbers of those young people entering OOHC increased, but many of those who enter the OOHC system are increasingly disadvantaged; presenting with increasingly complex needs and challenging behaviours.
In a 2006 Australia-wide study, almost 75% of young people who entered OOHC came from households with a history of domestic violence or physical abuse; 30% had parents with substance abuse problems; and almost 60% had been neglected. 50% of the sample had parents with mental health problems, significant financial problems, or homelessness. Most children and young people had suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. 63% had experienced four or more familial or social background factors coinciding with the placement into care.