Young people making the journey from residential care into adulthood will soon have access to more support as part of the new Next Steps pilot being trialled in South Australia.

Following a competitive tender process, Centacare Catholic Family Services, in partnership with community housing provider Housing Choices Australia (HCA) and Aboriginal Sobriety Group (ASG), has been announced as the successful non-government organisation to lead the $2.7 million pilot program.

Next Steps will provide adults aged 17 to 21 years on long-term guardianship orders with a direct pathway into low cost housing across metropolitan Adelaide, support to maintain their tenancy and address life skills including employment education, finance and health as they transition to independence.

The pilot follows the successful Stability in Family Based Care program, which for the first-time, is supporting carers with young people from age 18 to 21. Previously, carers were only supported until a young person turned 18.

Minister for Child Protection Rachel Sanderson said the Next Steps pilot program will initially help settle 20 young people in the first two years into housing, including access to medical, dental and mental health services.

“Young people leaving residential care can face many challenges, including finding and maintain housing and engaging with education and employment – challenges that are all the more difficult without family support,” said Minister Sanderson.

“This new, innovative program will provide wrap around supports such as therapeutic case workers, a financial counsellor, clinical nurse, youth workers and a dedicated youth tenancy officer, that will support our most complex young people leaving residential care with confidence and capacity to live independently and develop life skills.”

Research shows young people leaving care are at increased risk of homelessness, substance misuse and contact with the criminal justice system, and are more likely to have poorer health, education and employment outcomes.

Centacare Deputy Director Leanne Haddad said Next Steps was an innovative model unique to South Australia that moves “beyond basic housing requirements”.

“Developing agency is key to these young people having the ability to positively influence their own life, with the aim of developing secure and cooperative relationships that will in turn build sustainable life skills,” said Ms Haddad.

“Delivering this service is a privilege that can truly make a difference in young people’s lives.”

Leanne said an educator from Centacare’s Registered Training Organisation will be on hand to support each young person to identify language, literacy and numeracy needs and offer pathways into foundation skills, where required.

ASG, through its expertise as an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, will provide cultural support and consultancy, and a much-needed lens and way of practice when working with young Aboriginal people.

“Cultural connection and support for many young Aboriginal people exiting care is vital,” said Aboriginal Sobriety Group Chief Executive Officer Susie Andricic.

“Working with our community networks, we are looking forward to helping create a sense of cultural belonging for those young people that seek it.”

HCA SA General Manager Julie Duncan said as a social housing provider with a long history of working with young people, “we are excited to be a part of this collaborative model that digs deeper to build independence and life goals”.