Raising the Age of Care: A technical analysis report
Published: March 8, 2022
This analysis explores the impacts Raising the Age of Care (RAC) had on the outcomes of rangatahi who were eligible to remain in, or return to, placement for an additional year, until the age of 18.
The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a significant phase in the development of rangatahi. While challenging for most, this phase can be especially difficult for rangatahi who spent time in the Care and Protection system, as they are more likely to carry childhood traumas.
Historically, rangatahi were not able to remain in care once they turned 17, as they were defined as adults under the New Zealand law and were no longer covered by the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (CYPF) Act.
From April 2017, changes in the New Zealand Care and Protection system included the increase of the eligibility age at which rangatahi can remain (or return to) placement for an additional year, to 18 years of age. This change preceded more initiatives aimed at improving the outcomes of care leavers. Later changes included the increase of Youth Court upper age (from 17 to 18), and a Transition Support Service that assists with the transition of care leavers into adulthood (until the age of 25). Both more recent changes came into effect in July 2019.
This analysis examines how this change (Raising the Age of Care, or RAC) affected the outcomes of rangatahi, both during that additional year (from ages 17-18), as well as between the ages of 18 and 20.
To assess the impacts of RAC, health, education, justice, and labour market outcomes of rangatahi who were eligible (and likely to be targeted) for an additional year in care were compared with those of rangatahi who had similar characteristics, but from older cohorts who could not remain in care after the age of 17, as well as with rangatahi from a control group.
The analysis found that RAC led to strong reduction in benefit use between the ages of 17 and 20. In addition, the analysis also suggests that RAC led to improvements in gaining level 2 or above educational qualifications by the age of 19. However, the results of the analysis cannot conclusively determine whether the reduction in benefit use resulted from greater participation in education or employment.
Findings by main ethnic group
While strong reductions in benefit use was detected across all ethnic groups between the ages of 17 and 18, this was only sustained between ages 18-20 for Non-Māori or Pacific Peoples (NMP) rangatahi (not identified as Māori or Pacific Peoples, largely European ethnic group). In terms of education, the analysis found improvements in the likelihood of gaining any educational qualifications at ages 18 and 19 among Pacific Peoples or NMP rangatahi, with no such improvements detected for rangatahi Māori. Furthermore, the analysis found reductions in the total income earned from Wages and Salary (W&S) by rangatahi Māori between the ages of 17 and 18. Overall, the findings suggest that the ability to remain in care for an additional year did not deliver benefits to rangatahi Māori to the same extent as for other groups.
While the benefit and education related findings were in line with the anticipated effects of introducing RAC, no improvements in health, employment, teenage pregnancy, or justice related outcomes were detected. On one hand, lack of findings may reflect limitations in the design of this study, available data, and/or relatively short time-horizon examined (outcomes only until the age of 20). On the other hand, it may also be possible that as a stand-alone change, RAC was not sufficient to achieve all these improvements, particularly given the complexity of issues many rangatahi face.
The methodology used in this analysis could potentially be used to examine more recent initiatives aimed at improving the outcomes of care leavers (e.g., Transition Support Service). Furthermore, the analysis could be extended when more recent data is made available to examine whether improvements are made at later ages.