Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 23 September 2010) . . Page.. 4454 ..
has reduced their school-leaving age from 20 years to 18 years. Minister, what impact will this have on 19 and 20-year-olds who will now be leaving early?
MS BURCH: Black Mountain school is transitioning a number of children out of school this year. The department is working closely with the families of the children at Black Mountain school around those transitional options. Some will move into community-based support. Others will move into other support which affords them other community-based activities or vocational opportunities. There is a change. This work with the department is very active, very proactive across the families of those young people moving out of Black Mountain.
Whilst I understand that there is a level of uncertainty involved for those families—I do not deny that there would be within those families—the department certainly recognises that, which is why we are working very closely with them. My understanding is that the department has spoken with each and every family. Certainly those transition plans are being put in place now so that they will be in place by the end of the year.
MR SPEAKER: Mr Doszpot, a supplementary question?
MR DOSZPOT: Thank you. Minister, how will the government’s decision to reduce the leaving age for Black Mountain special school to 18 years affect the employment prospects of students with severe or profound disability?
MS BURCH: I thank Mr Doszpot for his interest in this. Last weekend when I was at Cook community hub, I was speaking with women from LEAD, an organisation that is active in supporting people with a disability in employment and other community-based options. They were great supporters of children leaving Black Mountain at the age of 18. Indeed, their comment was that if they leave at 18 the connections to those ongoing supports and opportunities is a more natural fit than waiting until they are 20. Whilst I recognise that there no doubt will be some level of anxiety and uncertainty within families, a number of people I have spoken to think that this is the right move, think that it makes those connections with those post-school options a more natural fit and indeed are quite supportive of it.
MS BRESNAN: A supplementary, Mr Speaker.
MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Bresnan.
MS BRESNAN: Minister, are there currently enough places in those community-based programs or in those option programs to accommodate students who will now require those services?
MS BURCH: We are working closely in the community-based arrangement. We are looking at support structures. That is limited to, I think, a quantified number of days a week over a three-year period. When they are moving into the vocational or activity-based programs, those programs are far broader and there are opportunities.
Again, I recognise the costs, whether it is young people leaving Black Mountain or how we accommodate a range of young people and not so young people in