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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2782 ..

unredacted so that he can undertake his performance audit of the business case. We are committed to this project. We have taken the stage 2 route to two elections. We have taken the entire project to three elections and it looks like the Canberra Liberals are determined to take it to four election-losing elections.

Children and young people—Safe and Connected Youth Program

MR PETTERSSON: My question is to the Minister for Families and Community Services. Minister, can you please update the Assembly on the outcome of the Safe and Connected Youth Pilot Program?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH-: I thank Mr Pettersson for his question and his interest in welfare of young people who might be at risk. We know that young people who have serious problems at home can be at risk of disengaging from school, becoming homeless and even entering the child protection or youth justice system. The Safe and Connected Youth Program works with a child or young person and their family, offering outreach support, therapeutic case management and family mediation with the aim of reducing family conflict and ensuring a safe home environment, ultimately reducing the risk of homelessness for these young people.

The program was initially funded as a pilot in 2019 and was designed and delivered in collaboration with key community sector partners, led by the Youth Coalition of the ACT. In March this year, the Youth Coalition released an evaluation of the pilot, which demonstrated the program’s impact for the young people who engaged with it, finding a reduced risk of homelessness, increased employment outcomes, increased educational outcomes, increased family communication, and improved access, integration and coordination of supports and services.

The Safe and Connected Youth Program fills a specific niche in the ACT’s community services landscape by providing targeted early intervention support that works with the whole family to support young who may be at risk. That is why we were pleased to announce recently that the Safe and Connected Youth Program will be receiving ongoing government funding and, indeed, be expanded to include specific therapeutic respite accommodation.

The 2021-22 ACT budget will include $7 million over four years for the program, including: $185,000 for establishing the program as an ongoing program; $157,000 for post-exit outreach services; $2.6 million for early preservation outreach services, including mediation and case work; and $4.1 million for the operational costs of the therapeutic respite accommodation.

MR PETTERSSON: Minister, how did the ACT government partner with the community sector in developing this program?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH-: I thank Mr Pettersson for the supplementary. The program supports young people in the middle years—generally considered either eight to 12 or eight to 15 years of age. This is an emerging area of need and focus in our community. Helping young people safely navigate this stage of life can have benefits that will extend well into adulthood.

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