Urgent needs of ‘invisible’ children

a young person falling

Tasmanian children experiencing homelessness alone have been left without crucial supports during the coronavirus state of emergency, a new report from Anglicare Tasmania reveals.

An interim report from the project #StayHome? The impact of COVID-19 on unaccompanied homeless children in Tasmania was released today as a matter of urgency. It highlights the significant impact of the pandemic on unaccompanied homeless children and how our State can take targeted action to respond to their ongoing needs.

It also calls for focused planning to ensure appropriate care is available in the event of any future coronavirus outbreak.

The research by Dr Catherine Robinson from Anglicare’s Social Action and Research Centre details the effects of the COVID-19 related restrictions on local children aged 10-17 experiencing homelessness alone (without a parent or guardian) during March-June this year. 24 workers from 10 different community service organisations statewide were interviewed for the report.

“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,” said Dr Robinson.

There was a reduction in available beds at supported accommodation services and some children returned to unsafe housing situations or were forced to sleep rough. A lack of access to support and technology affected their school participation.

Support workers reported a significant reduction in face-to-face therapeutic work with children during the four months. “They told of a decline in children’s mental health and physical wellbeing, including depression, anxiety, personal hygiene challenges, weight gain, and increased use of drugs and alcohol,” said Dr Robinson. “Services lost contact with some children altogether”.

Workers interviewed for the research were concerned about how to re-contact vulnerable children, re-establish trusting relationships, respond to the worsening symptoms of mental health, and re-engage children with school and other positive activities. They anticipated an overall rise in demand for support services during COVID-19 recovery.

“This interim reports points out the difficulties of protecting children who don’t have an effective guardian and stable home during a public health emergency,” said Dr Robinson.

“As we undertake further planning, we must prioritise a response to the health and social impacts these children have experienced as a result of the pandemic”.

The Anglicare research recommends that Tasmania:

– urgently restore full face-to-face delivery of all child-focused statutory and community services, in particular Child Safety Services, and fund increased client capacity;

– increase supports for vulnerable children to re-engage with school (including through outreach);

– deliver targeted mental health services to high-risk children (including through outreach);

– provide supported accommodation and outreach as “essential services” for unaccompanied homeless children, including during emergencies;

– have clear plans for health, accommodation and care arrangements for unaccompanied homeless children required to isolate as part of COVID-19 requirements.

Anglicare’s full #StayHome project will be completed later this year and include further findings and additional, updated recommendations.

 A copy of the interim report is available here.



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