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Financial assistance from DCJ must be related to a current, identified need for safety, welfare or well-being. Rationale must be provided about why the assistance is required and why universal or ‘no cost’ services will not meet the need.
Assistance should not be requested if there is no current need. For example, the Aftercare Allowance should not be applied for on the basis that the young person might need it at some time in the future although they are not currently at risk of homelessness. The Guidelines tell us that amendments are to be expected as circumstances change. The appropriate assistance can be added to the plan as new needs emerge.
Plans are continually updated with the young person’s participation and aim to help them achieve their goals and aspirations. Plans therefore include follow-up contact after leaving care, particularly in the first 12 months, to ensure that everything has been implemented as intended. For example, that a service has engaged with the young person and is providing support to suit their current needs.
If it is established that a young person has a current need and this need will not be met by universal services, consider what will help them. Be creative in your thinking, involve the young person and those around them and tailor the assistance rather than provide a set package that may not suit.
Determining assistance, including financial assistance, begins with an assessment, i.e. what does this person need? It should not be based on standard figures where the same amount is automatically requested for all care leavers.
While the Guidelines include indicative amounts for accommodation, education and training, higher amounts may be approved if it is demonstrated that the care leaver requires that level of assistance due to their individual circumstances.
When requesting financial assistance, say how the assistance will help the young person and how the amount was determined. For example, gym membership might be requested for a care leaver who is using physical activity to manage their stress and sleeplessness. A total of $600 might be requested for one year of membership noting that the membership fee is $50 per month (i.e. 12 x $50 = $600). Insufficient detail can delay approval.
The following case studies illustrate financial assistance to help young people overcome challenges and achieve their full potential as they transition to early adulthood.
Summer’s plan – Paying for secured parking at night as an education expense illustrates flexibility, tailoring to individual circumstances and thinking broadly about the expenses that could fall under each category.
Steven’s plan – Good casework for help to obtain a driver’s licence shows how involving the young person and those around them in developing a leaving care plan gives ownership and results in a better plan.
Liz’s plan – This example illustrates the exploration of universal services first, how they can be broader than many people know, that they include programs that prioritise or give special concessions to care leavers, and that financial assistance can be used to cover gaps left by the universal services.
Eka’s plan – Regular after care contact with Eka allowed an abusive relationship to be quickly identified and dealt with. Pre-planned options and help with the cost of utilities including electricity and internet allowed Eka to escape the relationship and move to safe accommodation.
Fiona’s plan – Establishing Fiona in suitable accommodation at higher than average costs illustrates the principles of assessment and tailoring assistance to the level of need. It demonstrates how the financial amounts specified in the Guidelines relate to approval delegations and that higher amounts may be approved if assessment determines they are required. Templates that focus on amounts mentioned in the Guidelines can result in ‘cut and paste’ plans that are not tailored to the individual and may not meet their needs.
Brandon’s plan – Financial assistance can include case work directly related to implementing a plan after a young a person has left care. In this case, caseworker support has been used to assist Brandon engage with adult health services and provide his medical history accurately.
Joe’s plan – The NDIA and DCJ have worked together to support Joe, as a care leaver with disability, to give him the best chance of achieving his goals. His plan considers a wide range of supports including the coordination needed to manage his NDIS plan.
Amina’s Plan – Installation of a stair lift in a relative’s home illustrates how unusual expenses of higher value can be included in a plan where it is an appropriate and reasonable solution to a young person’s needs.
Kylan’s plan – This is an example of a request for financial assistance with insufficient information to allow for a decision. The expense might be approved if sufficient rationale is provided including that it is an actual expense and that it will not be adequately covered by universal services. It is also unclear if more beneficial options have been considered, including ones that might reduce the risk to Kylan’s health.
Hala’s plan – This example illustrates the poor practice of including an expense for which there is no current need or immediate likelihood. This type of plan is often based on the use of templates where anything that is mentioned in the Guidelines is included in case it is ever needed. Such plans are not individually tailored.
01 Mar 2023
We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future.
Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.
You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.