20 October 2014
The Government decision to stop funding the Youth Connections program continues to astound me. Some of the most vulnerable people in our community will have the threads connecting them to school, work, and a stable life completely cut away.
The coalition's first budget was a pretty cruel one, but there was one particular measure that continues to astound me for its cold-heartedness. The government's decision to stop funding the Youth Connections and Partnership Brokers program means that some of the most vulnerable people in our community will have the threads connecting them to school, work and a stable life completely cut away. In speaking with the providers of these services in my electorate of Fraser, I heard about a young woman named Sammy whose story highlights how important such a program is. Sammy came into contact with Youth Connections after a history of substance abuse and family breakdown which saw her drop out of school in year 11. The Youth Connections staff helped her find safe and stable housing, access much needed medical services and re-establish a relationship with her family. With these wraparound services supporting her, Sammy was able to go back to school to complete her secondary studies at the Canberra Institute of Technology and has gone on to further vocational study there. Sammy is one of the 93 per cent of Youth Connections participants nationally who remain in work or study six months after completing the program. I could also tell many stories about young people who stayed in school because of the Partnership Brokers program was able to link them to tailored vocational learning opportunities. These programs cost very little, yet they are enormously effective in helping young people build the foundations for stable, successful lives.
While the government is cutting back on these evidence based programs, it is expanding Work for the Dole—a program which an evaluation, commissioned by then employment minister Tony Abbott and written by Jeff Borland and Yi-Ping Tseng, found was increasing joblessness, not decreasing it. I urge the Abbott government to recognise the huge social value of Youth Connections and the Partnership Brokers program and commit the funding necessary to keep them running after 31 December.
It was my pleasure on Friday to attend an Anglicare youth unemployment forum discussing these very issues and to hear from experts such as Susan Helyar, Director of ACTCOSS, Anglicare staff such as Jenny Kitchin and Jeremy Halcrow, and clients such as Arko Chakrabarty, whose special song was a highlight for many. Anglicare workers such as Shy Watson, Sandra Mickie and Hannah McQuiggin were there to engage with the community, as was Claire Lloyd-Jones, the author of an important report, Limiting futures, on the challenge of combating youth unemployment in the ACT. All of these people gathered together behind a shared goal: to increase participation in the ACT, based on evidence based policies, in order to improve the lives of young Australians. Yet all these people want is a government which is prepared to extend the same compassion to the community that so many great Anglicare workers exhibit every day in their daily work.