This paper examines the way the state welfare system deals with young women who are subject to statutory orders and their need for support as they move towards independence. Young women’s views of their needs are highlighted. Evidence is drawn from the author’s and other relevant Australian and overseas research. The issues are examined within the context of general community trends and policy and practice implications are studied using Community Services Victoria as a case example.
A variety of social and economic factors are leading to young people in the general community living with their parents for longer periods of time. In contrast, young people subject to statutory orders, especially young women, are often being discharged from these orders - and thus isolated from adult guidance - shortly after they pass their mid-teens.
Assumptions about these young women’s needs - that they no longer require nor wish for support and are ready for complete independence at this early age - are challenged. The legal, organisational and practice constraints which reinforce these assumptions are analysed. The apparent contradiction arising from young women refusing services which they also say they require, is also discussed.
The author demonstrates that there is a need for a reconceptualisation of the issue. A new kind of partnership between workers and young women on statutory orders is needed and a policy and administrative framework which facilitates this. The implications of the findings for practice and policy - and especially the important contribution ttiat young women’s views can make to the development of social policy - are presented.