Unaccompanied homeless children in Tasmania

In Tasmania, as in other Australian states and territories, children can experience homelessness alone without a parent or guardian. Unaccompanied child homelessness is the outcome of a lack of care and effective guardianship in children’s lives.

Children who experience unaccompanied homelessness may sleep rough, couch surf with extended family, friends and acquaintances, or access Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS).

In 2018-19 Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data recorded that 14,456 children aged 10-17 presented alone to SHS in Australia, and 410 children aged 10-17 presented along to SHS in Tasmania.  These numbers, however, are reflective of the number of SHS beds available, not the number of children in need.

A public health approach to ending unaccompanied child homelessness in Tasmania

This paper outlines the interventions required to prevent unaccompanied child homelessness or ensure it is a brief, supported and one-off experience.

This roadmap for ending unaccompanied child homelessness emerges from a suite of in-depth qualitative research projects (outlined below) designed to understand the personal and systemic vulnerability experienced by unaccompanied homeless children and their need for care, education, and mental health supports. The impacts of COVID-19 have added another layer of complexity to the lives of unaccompanied homeless children. We highlight the need for a bespoke COVID-19 outbreak management plan for unaccompanied homeless children, including measures to support their health, wellbeing and school engagement during a public health emergency.

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