The NSW Ombudsman released a concerning report today More than shelter – outstanding actions to improve the response to children presenting alone to homelessness services finding that the number of unaccompanied children who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, does not appear to be improving. Every year for the past 5 years, between 2,300 and 2,600 children aged 12 to 15 have sought services, without a parent or guardian, from Specialist Homelessness Services in NSW.
In 2021 – 2022, 2,379 children aged 12 – 15 years presented alone, that is without a parent or guardian. Of this group, 1,072 needed accommodation and less than half or 483 children received accommodation.
Aboriginal children where highly over-represented, comprising around 25% of the group and children in our-of-home care represented 10% of the group.
Since the last report in 2020, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) has implemented some of the recommendations made, however, the Ombudsman criticised DCJ for not collecting the necessary data to show whether policy change is making positive improvements for this group, and for not implementing other recommendations from the previous report.
The Ombudsman notes that a consistent theme across their last three reports is the lack of information about the children – who they are, why they are presenting alone, what services they received and the outcomes achieved.