This advice provides additional information about Better Futures.
Document ID number 2139, version 1, 7 January 2022.
Better Futures is a post care support service that aims to support young people achieve successful and independent adult lives; helping them to have an active voice in decisions about their future and guiding their transition to adulthood and independent living across a range of life areas, including:
- health and wellbeing
- employment, and
- community and cultural connections.
These five life areas are referred to as “offers” under the Better Futures Advantaged Thinking Practice Framework.
The model promotes early referrals at 15 years and 9 months ensuring all eligible young people are aware of and are linked to a post care support service. Early referrals also provide Better Futures the opportunity to offer secondary consultations to care teams in the development and implementation of the 15+ Care and Transition Plans.
When young people are in care and still some time away from transitioning to independence, the primary role of Better Futures is likely to be the provision of secondary consultation to case managers and care teams and facilitating access to flexible funding to support the implementation of the 15+ Care and Transition Plan. As young people near the point of leaving care (approximately six months prior to cessation of their order), their circumstances are reviewed, and the Better Futures service response may intensify to ensure their smooth transition from care.
Better Futures service response includes:
- direct case work support (levels of support will flex up and down according to their needs, existing support networks and the transition goals identified)
- information and advice
- access to flexible funding to facilitate the young person’s access to housing, education, employment, health and wellbeing support
- community connections, and
- Home Stretch.
See procedures Referral to Better Futures and Accessing Better Futures flexible funding for tasks that must be undertaken.
In Victoria, the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (section 16) establishes a responsibility for the Secretary to provide or arrange for the provision of services to assist in supporting a person under the age of 21 years to gain the capacity to make the transition to independent living where the Secretary has had parental responsibility for the person. Young people in foster care, kinship care, residential care are eligible for Better Futures if they are subject to a:
- family reunification order,
- a care by Secretary order, or
- a long-term care order.
From 1 July 2021 young people subject to a permanent care order on or after the age of 15 years and 9 months are also eligible for Better Futures.
Young people on interim accommodation orders and family preservation orders at 15 years and 9 months are not eligible for Better Futures, however, should they transition to a statutory order in scope of Better Futures prior to turning 18 years of age they may be eligible to access the service.
Young people are referred to Better Futures at 15 years and 9 months by their case manager; either a child protection practitioner, a case manager delivering contracted case management in a community service organisation or an Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC) case manager.
Early referrals support Better Futures workers to:
- develop knowledge about, and relationships with, young people
- consult and add value through networks, contacts and expertise to contribute to a strong foundation for young people as they transition from care
- contribute towards the development of 15+ Care and Transition Plans
- provide access to flexible funding to support and prepare young people as they transition from care to adulthood.
Referrals are submitted to the relevant Better Futures provider via the Client Relationship Information System (CRIS) with the required supporting documentation (attached to the CRIS Referral):
- Better Futures referral checklist
- CRIS Client Overview
- The most up to date version of the 15+ Care and Transition Plan
- Cultural Plan (for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people)
- Any other supporting documentation relevant to leaving care planning and preparation activities.
Better Futures providers use supporting documentation to inform decisions about the Better Futures service response and to facilitate the young person’s smooth transition from care.
Young people on permanent care orders are referred to Better Futures by Permanent Care and Adoptive Families (PCA Families) or Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA).
Better Futures referral pathway arrangements
The department funds Community Services Organisations and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to deliver the Better Futures service response across the state.
- Depending on Better Futures local area implementation arrangements referrals are accepted on by:
- a nominated Better Futures provider/s who is the central point for referrals for Better Futures in that area/s; or
- an ACCO for Aboriginal young people; or
- a Better Futures provider who is the sole provider in the area; or
- other agreed local arrangements.
To confirm the referral pathway arrangement in the local area or division contact the relevant Better Futures/Home Stretch senior project officer. This role exists in each division providing Better Futures and Home Stretch operational support and coordination.
In care phase
While the young person is in care, the case manager and care team are responsible for supporting them to prepare for a successful transition, by working towards the achievement of goals in their 15+ Care and Transition Plan. The Better Futures worker supports the care team, including the young person where appropriate, to identify goals and actions for inclusion in the 15+ Care and Transition plan.
The Better Futures worker does not assume lead responsibility for case work support whilst the young person is subject to a statutory order, rather in most instances performs a secondary consultation role, bringing their transition expertise to the planning and preparation activities.
Better Futures workers are not able to attend all care team meetings for all young people.
Support from Better Futures gradually increases as the young person nears leaving care age, usually from about six months prior to the cessation of an order, with support continuing until the young person turns 21 years of age.
This increased involvement may include the Better Futures worker starting to work directly with the young person, encouraging them to identify their goals and how they think they can be achieved.
The Better Futures worker can provide the young person with flexible levels of support, and access to flexible funding.
Flexible levels of support are provided to young people both in care and post care. The young person may be placed on active hold, receive limited support or active support.
The level of support a young person receives will be determined by the Better Futures worker in consultation with the young person and/or the care team. The level of support provided is likely to change over time, with the changing needs of the young person.
In most instances, young people in care will receive active hold support from Better Futures, with their worker making contact with them on a quarterly basis to check on how their preparation for transition is going.
The decision to offer a young person active hold support is likely to be made in the following circumstances:
- the young person is in care, is supported by a case manager and an active care team and is progressing well with achievement of their transition goals
- the young person has left care and is doing well, achieving their transition goals and only requires a regular check-in
- the young person is actively choosing not to engage with the Better Futures service.
Limited support is likely to be provided to young people who have transitioned from care, have formal or informal support in place and require access to flexible funding, information, referral and advice and/or assistance to address short-term needs.
In some circumstances, a young person may require limited support from Better Futures while still in care. This may include:
- assistance with one off flexible funding requests
- information, advice and referrals
- practical support such as development of independent living skills
- linking a young person to community and/or cultural connections to reduce the risk of social isolation
- referring a young person to a mentor.
Active support is likely to be provided when the young person nears the point of leaving care, with support being provided across the five Better Futures service offers of housing and living skills, education, employment, health and wellbeing, and community connections.
The young person is supported to have an active voice in their goal setting and is introduced to the Advantaged Thinking tools (refer to the Better Futures (Advantaged Thinking) Practice Framework for more information.
Provision of active support may include:
- supporting the young person to re-engage with education, employment and training
- supporting access to flexible funding
- assisting the young person to develop networks, relationships and community connections outside the care system
- providing referrals to early intervention support for young people who are caring for children
- supporting the young person to attend appointments and meetings, including with specialist services
- supporting an Aboriginal young person with cultural connections and return to country
- supporting young people to develop life skills such as financial literacy, cooking skills, and other skills required to sustain successful independence
- supporting a young person to secure sustainable housing (whilst the young person is in care this is the role of the case manager and care team)
- provide assertive outreach for young people who may be difficult to contact
- engaging with young people who live in rural communities (this may involve the Better futures worker travelling long distances to provide support)
- supporting the young person to access universal and other services such as dental, medical and sexual health services
- trauma informed service delivery including supporting a young person to access counselling.
Young people leaving care should also be informed of and be provided with the following contact details and information as they begin their transition from care to adulthood:
Leaving Care Hotline
Melbourne City Mission are funded to operate the Leaving Care Hotline 1300 532 846, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The helpline is available from 9am to 8pm weekdays and 10am to 6pm on weekends and public holidays.
SORTLI is a free mobile app helping young people navigate their transition from care to independence. It covers some of life's biggest challenges across eight life domains. It's a needs-based app, helping young people find the information and services they need, when they need it.
Visit the CREATE website for more information about SORTLI. The app is available from itunes (iOS) and google play store (android).
Young people who have left care are provided with flexible levels of support depending on their needs, circumstances and existing support systems, which are likely to change over time. Young people may receive limited support, or active support, and this may include:
- support to achieve identified goal/s
- support to engage in education, training and/or employment
- linkages and referrals to specialist supports if required, such as counselling and drug and alcohol services
- support to identify suitable and safe housing options
- connection to community and building networks of support outside of the care system
- support in times of crisis.
A young person who has left care may be placed on active hold, where they will receive a quarterly check-in to see how they are going.
Levels of support - whether limited support, active support or active hold - will be in accordance with the young person’s 15+ care and transition plan, and as the young person transitions from care towards independence, the Better Futures support plan, incorporating regular review and progress points involving the active voice of the young person.