A COLAC youth program will lose funding this year, leaving at-risk young people vulnerable, a youth worker says.
Youth Connections case worker Kathryn Johns said, since 2010, the program had supported 136 young Colac people who were at risk of leaving school or who had left school to continue with their education and achieve a Year 12 or equivalent qualification.
Ms Johns said 25 Colac youths were using the service this year, through Brophy Family and Youth Services, with more referrals pending.
“Mostly it is intensive case management and covers a whole range of areas; a lot of kids who have dropped out of school have a number of barriers in their life that have caused that to happen,” Ms Johns said.
“A Youth Connections caseworker helps them to navigate through those barriers,” she said.
“The main aim is to re-engage or keep them connected with education.
“Sadly, this highly successful program is a casualty of the federal budget.”
Ms Johns said the Youth Connections program would discontinue after December and “has not been replaced by anything which will assist vulnerable young people to complete their education or transition into training or employment”.
“Young people’s chances of completing their education and ultimately gaining employment will be greatly diminished,” she said.
The Federal Government last week committed to getting more young people “off the couch” and into education or employment.
Ms Johns said it was ironic Youth Connections funding would cease because data from a Youth Connections National Network survey in January showed 80 per cent of the 1231 youths surveyed were still in education or employment after participating in 2012 Youth Connections programs.
The majority of respondents also stated they were not receiving Commonwealth financial assistance.
“The irony of not just ‘earn or learn’ but the difficulty with changes to Youth Allowance and Newstart is, ultimately, young people will be more dependent on welfare because they won’t have the support system to get them out of where they are,” she said.
“One of the reasons the program is so good is that there is no time limit, you keep the kids with you until they reach where they need to be; it’s not through laziness, it is a whole lot of other things.
“It takes a person to actually get them off the couch – without that there will be a lot more kids on the couch.
“It is worrying that it hasn’t been replaced by anything even similar,” Ms Johns said.
Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson said the Federal Government was committed to programs assisting young people into employment, including Job Services Australia and Disability Employment Services.
Ms Henderson said the government would introduce Trade Support Loans of up to $20,000 over the life of an apprenticeship from July 1 to encourage more young people to pursue and complete a trade qualification.
“From 2016, for the first time ever, the Commonwealth will provide direct financial support to all students studying higher education diplomas, advanced diplomas and associate degree courses,” Ms Henderson said.
“This will provide pathways for more students to their chosen career.”