Some of Tasmania’s most vulnerable teens are falling through the cracks, left alone to navigate a world of neglect and abandonment, a new report found.
Anglicare’s Too Hard? Highly vulnerable teens in Tasmania report, released on Tuesday, found a cohort of young people, aged between 10 and 17, had been abandoned not only by their families, but the system that is meant to support them.
The report profiles a group of young people not on Care and Protection Orders, who move from one unstable environment to another.
These young people have often experienced neglect many adults would struggle to imagine, and some are not even out of primary school.
Report author Catherine Robinson said the problem came down to, in part, a mismatch between the reality of the situation and the support available.
As a result, some young people had been labeled as “too hard” to help.
The report went on to make a series of recommendations, including the need to establish a specific program area for Youth at Risk Strategy implementation and to create new care services targeted to highly vulnerable young people.
“What we need is a new suite of care services able to provide medium and long-term care,” Dr Robinson said.
“Imagine all of the care and support that we’d expect any young person to have and just take it all away, that means taking housing away, taking parents away, taking material basics away.
“Then you only live life from one minute to the next because you’re at the whim of how the day pans out.”
In the report, 16-year-old Frankie, not his real name, said he had never felt loved.
“I don’t believe [biological] Dad loved me … I think he might have just thought that child is like a doll, you can just chuck it away,” he said.
Anglicare youth support services coordinator Mardie Blair said she had helped children as young as 10 who were homeless.
“A lot of this is generational, it’s learnt behaviours, so the parents are trying the best they can with what they’ve got,” she said.
“It’s the system that’s too hard, the kids are great – they’re funny, they’re resilient, they’re compassionate, but they’re lost.”
Commissioner for Children and Young People Mark Morrissey said the report accurately reflected the reality of the current situation.
“It is not the children themselves who are too hard to reach – it is that the services available for this particular group of children are spread too thinly,” he said.
Acting Human Services Minister Rene Hidding said the problem could begin to be addressed through increased employment, educational opportunities, and reduced use of illicit drugs.