Home Stretch - advice
This advice provides additional information regarding Home Stretch.
Document ID number 2138, version 1, 7 January 2022.
See Applying for Home Stretch procedure for tasks that must be undertaken.
Children and young people in care services (formerly known as out-of-home care) are supported through a continuum of care response, that provides ongoing placement support from entry into the child protection system to their formal exit from care. The introduction of Home Stretch has expanded this response. It provides eligible young people with access to continued supports to secure and maintain stable accommodation as they exit care from 16 to 21 years of age.
Home Stretch provides young people with a more gradual and supported transition to adulthood and is delivered via the Better Futures program.
Home Stretch includes three components:
- accommodation allowance, either:
- Home-based Care
- young people and their kinship carers, foster carers and permanent carers have the option of extending current living arrangement up to their 21st birthday, supported by an allowance.
- Independent Living
- Young people leaving residential care (including lead tenant), kinship care, foster care, permanent care or in some cases leaving another care or living arrangement can access an allowance to support them with housing costs up to their 21st birthday.
- case work support provided by a Better Futures worker via the Better Futures service response model
- access to flexible funding to facilitate the young person’s access to housing, education, employment, health, wellbeing support and community connections.
In January 2021, Victoria was the first Australian jurisdiction to make extended care universal – meaning all young people leaving foster, kinship and residential care can receive a more gradual and supported transition to adulthood via Home Stretch. Through the Victorian Budget 2021/22, Better Futures and Home Stretch were expanded to include young people on permanent care orders.
Young people are eligible for Home Stretch if they:
- have been referred and accepted by Better Futures
- are residing in out of home care arrangements; and
- are subject to any of the following orders: family reunification order, a care by Secretary order or a long-term care order on or after their 16th birthday.
From 1 July 2021 young people are also eligible for Home Stretch if they:
- have been referred and accepted by Better Futures; and
- are on a permanent care order up until their 18th birthday.
Home Stretch commences after a young person’s child protection order ceases for the final time and supports are available up until 21 years of age.
Young people who have chosen not to access Home Stretch, or who subsequently disengaged from the program may request support at any time prior to their 21st birthday. Requests to access Home Stretch post order will be processed by the Better Futures worker in consultation with the relevant divisional Better Futures and Home Stretch senior project workers.
Targeted Care Packages (TCP)
Eligible young people who have been approved for a TCP extension post child protection order may apply for Home Stretch, however, if approved, Home Stretch funding and support will not commence until after the TCP funding arrangement has ended.
During this period eligible young people residing in these arrangements can continue to access Better Futures service response.
Home stretch application process
The role of Home Stretch in supporting a young person’s transition should form part of care team meeting discussions from the age of 15 years. It is important these conversations occur as early as possible and as part of leaving care planning to allow for maximum time to plan and establish an appropriate post-order accommodation exit option.
See Leaving Care – advice for further information.
Home stretch application process
There are two steps to completing the Home Stretch process:
- Complete the Home Stretch Application – this step specifies the Home Stretch accommodation type and formalises the approval of the Home Stretch package – either via Home-based Care or Independent Living.
- Allocate and approve the Home Stretch Accommodation Allowance funding– this step is required to approve Home Stretch funding via the care allowance payment request process (using the Form C: Change of details for care allowance) or via the Home Stretch Independent Living Proposal (confirming funding allocation to Better Futures to support the approved independent living arrangement). This step can only be completed after the Home Stretch application is formally approved.
The Home Stretch application form and Independent Living proposal must be completed by the child protection practitioner, contracted case manager, or the ACAC case manager and submitted to the relevant child protection team manager for approval. The Better Futures worker must be consulted when processing the application and proposal.
The Home Stretch application is accessed via the young person’s CRIS case (via the Service Provision component). The application is only visible whilst the CRIS case is open. Offline forms are to be used only to process post order applications for example young people on permanent care orders requesting to access Home Stretch.
Refer to Home Stretch CRIS guide for more information about the CRIS Home Stretch application process – accessible in CRIS via the 4 Help! Ask CRIS icon.
Home Stretch Accommodation Allowance Rates
The accommodation allowance funding for all approved Home Stretch living arrangements is capped at equivalent to the Care Allowance Level 13+ base rate and subject to annual indexation.
Home Stretch funding commences after a young person’s child protection order ceases for the final time or after the cessation of post order funding arrangements (for example extended Targeted Care Packages or via the 18 years and school attendance care allowance policy).
The most up to date Care Allowance Level 13+ base rate is accessible via the Support for home-based carers in Victoria website.
Considerations for good practice
- As part of transition planning Home Stretch should be discussed and considered by the care team in consultation with the young person and Better Futures.
- Before formally applying for Home Stretch, the care team in consultation with the young person must determine whether the application is going to be submitted via home-based care or via independent living.
- A young person and carer (if relevant) must consent to the application and the consent must be recorded on the Home Stretch application.
- The Home Stretch application should be supported by the relevant child protection team manager and by the Better Futures worker.
- Better Futures must be engaged throughout the application process as they will be responsible to administer and support the approved Home Stretch living arrangement post order.
- An application for Home Stretch should be submitted no later than six months prior to the young person’s order ending, although it is acknowledged that this may vary depending on the individual circumstances of the young person (and carer where relevant).
- If a young person is transitioning to an independent living arrangement the care team should plan for and provide opportunities to support independent skills development (within the current placement setting).