Church praises advocacy work and votes to fix 'broken' extended care system

7 Jun 2021 by Martin Thomas in: Latest News

Pictured: Jon O’Brien — from Uniting Advocacy — answering questions about the advocacy proposal

Synod 2021 has accepted a report that commits the church to advocate for the NSW government to do more to improve the life outcomes of young people who are part of the state’s out-of-home care system.

On Wednesday (2 June), delegates heard the NSW Government was lagging behind other states and territories that now provide extended care support to the age of 21. In contrast, In NSW young people must leave care at 18 which many feel it is akin to ‘being pushed off a cliff’.

The Advocacy paper, which also outlined successful activities in support of drug law reform, climate change and ageing, was accepted after an amendment that specifically acknowledged the strong advocacy work of the church in the area of First Nation’s people.

Prior to the report being accepted, Dr Denise Wood, outlined the feedback from discernment groups which she said had warmly received the report and expressed thankfulness for the work of Uniting.

“There was strong support for the critical nature of all advocacy issues. This is who we are and it is important,” she said

Dr Wood said discernment groups had expressed a strong desire that Uniting and the congregations worked closely together and that all presbyteries – metro, regional or rural – should be included.

In presenting the report to Synod on Wednesday night, Doug Taylor, Uniting’s Director, Missions, Communities and Social Impact said that each night  15,000 young people were in care due to abuse, poverty or other challenges.

“Uniting and Wesley Mission cares for 1000 young people, but we do this work in a broken system … almost half of young people when they leave care become homeless and 1 in 2 experience unemployment or substance abuse … but there is an opportunity for the church to be part of movement for change,” he said.

The Advocacy report said having a system that provides every young person in out-of-home care a guarantee of care until 21 as one of a range of options available, better mirrors the safety-net most young people have and need.

The report called on Synod to endorse the “Homestretch” campaign to increase the age of foster care support from 18 to 21 and acknowledges that young people in out of home care deserve more support to the age of 21, through new innovations such including a youth development coach from age 15 like that provided now within the extended care pilot programs run by NSW.ACT Extended Care program.

The Advocacy report affirmed the role of advocacy and work for social justice, peace and the environment as an essential element of the church’s mission and of Christian discipleship. And online delegates heard updates on key advocacy campaigns

Shane Slade from Engadine Uniting Church spoke to Synod on Wednesday about the Fair Treatment campaign which was now in its 5th year. He spoke about what had been achieved by Uniting Church members and congregations including a meeting with the NSW Treasurer hosted by Epping Uniting Church which was critical to new funding being announced for a much-needed drug rehabilitation facility in Dubbo.

Martin Thomas