School action aims to stop child homelessness
SCHOOL students will be quizzed about their living situations and family relationships as part of a drastic new plan to identify kids at risk of homelessness.
News Corp Australia can reveal Family and Community Services is going to start "screening" students in Years 7-12 to assess children it thinks could end up homeless and offer them extra support, including counselling and employment programs.
The $4.7 million program will start with a pilot which will run across eight high schools in Albury, Penrith and Mt Druitt. It comes after a recent report revealed that in NSW last year 5000 children turned up at homeless shelters alone and looking for help.
FACS held industry meetings in Western Sydney and Albury this week to start the process of appointing a non-government organisation to run the program.
An existing survey called the Australian Index for Adolescent Development will be used to screen the students as well as information from teachers about kids they think could be at risk.
The survey asks students questions about their living arrangements, family conflict, attitude to school and school attendance and use of alcohol and other drugs.
Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said the aim of the program was to provide intervention for kids at risk before they were facing homelessness.
"We know that experiencing homelessness as a young person can often lead to long-term, chronic homelessness," Ms Goward said.
"Early intervention is vital. Through this program we will work to identify young people at risk and get them the support they need to avoid becoming homeless.
"As a result of this program, we expect to see more at-risk young students with a roof over their heads, surrounded by support and staying in education," Ms Goward said.
The trial is modelled on Victorian early intervention program The Geelong Project. About 2200 students will take part in NSW's trial next year.
Youth Action chief executive Katie Acheson said early intervention was key to dealing with the rising number of homeless young people.
"The problem with youth homelessness is that is it's not always as visible as homelessness with older people.
"A young person for instance might be couch-surfing, which is not always properly recognised as a form of homelessness that carries risk," Ms Acheson said.
"The good thing about this model is it involves the entire school population and can help identify those young people who are at risk but have been hidden."