Some Tasmanian children experiencing homelessness were forced to sleep rough or return to unsafe living environments during the state’s coronavirus lockdown, a new report shows.
The interim report was based on information provided to Anglicare’s Social Action and Research Centre by 24 social workers from 10 of the state’s community service organisations.
It documented the experiences of children aged between 10 and 17 who were effectively homeless from March to June this year.
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Lead researcher Catherine Robinson said these children had to contend with a reduction in available beds at supported accommodation services over this time.
She said a lack of access to support and technology affected participation in education.
“During the COVID-19 emergency – when the entire community was told to stay home – life became even more precarious for children unable to access safe accommodation and support from key services and school,” Dr Robinson said.
She said support workers reported a significant reduction in face-to-face therapeutic work with children during the four months.
Dr Robinson said workers told of witnessing a decline in the physical wellbeing and personal hygiene of children over this time and an increase in depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol use.
The report recommended full face-to-face delivery of child safety services be restored and funding providing for increased client capacity.
It recommended an increase in support service so vulnerable children could re-engage with school.
The report recommended supported accommodation and outreach be provided as essential services for unaccompanied homeless children, especially during emergencies.
It said there needed to be clear health, accommodation and care arrangement plans for children who might be required to isolate under public health requirements.
Youth Network of Tasmania chief executive Tania Hunt said coronavirus had amplified the policy and service system gaps that existed for unaccompanied homeless children under 16.
She acknowledged the state government had established homelessness working group for children under 16 to oversee immediate actions from a taskforce report, supported by specific funding.
“YNOT supports the call for targeted action and focused planning to mitigate the social and health impacts of future public health emergencies on this highly vulnerable group of children.” Ms Hunt said.
A full report for Anglicare’s #StayHome project will be completed by the end of the year.
This will include further recommendations.
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