Youth and young adults set to transition from government care will be able to stay in their living arrangements for up to one additional year as the Province extends COVID-19 emergency measures.
“Youth and young adults in our care deserve to feel supported and safe — especially as we continue to navigate this pandemic,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development. “As the economy recovers, housing and employment are recovering too. We are supporting young adults to stay in their current living arrangements, so they don’t need to transition to independence during this tumultuous time.”
All youth who are transitioning into adulthood can access housing supports to stay where they are. In addition, for the first time, those who are eligible for the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program can apply to participate in both programs at the same time. Eligible young adults using the emergency housing support may be eligible to receive up to $350 per month through AYA, based on their unique needs and the length of their program.
“Being able to access both housing and AYA at the same time will help more young adults participate in life skills, mental health and educational programs, while remaining in their current home,” Dean said.
All youth who are set to transition into adulthood at age 19 will continue to receive housing and financial support past their 19th birthday, until March 31, 2022. This means youth who are currently living in foster care, contracted residential agencies or with relatives through an out-of-care arrangement, such as through the extended family program, will be able to stay in their placements, and youth on Independent Living Agreements and Youth Agreements will continue to receive financial support. Social workers will continue transition planning with young adults who are ready to move on from their current placements.
“We appreciate government recognizing the risk of homelessness faced by youth leaving the care system during the pandemic and responding to community advocacy to extend these supports,” said Susan Russell-Csanyi, organizer of the Fostering Change campaign, hosted by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. “This extension of the interim measures is a concrete step that we know will bring a sense of relief to many young people in care, knowing they will continue to have shelter during the pandemic. We applaud and encourage the continued focus on preventing homelessness as a critical aspect of youth transition planning, so that all youth leave care, at all times, knowing they have safe, sustainable shelter waiting.”
As part of government emergency measures announced in September 2020, easier access to life skills and rehabilitation supports through the AYA program is in place until September 2021. These measures allow eligible young adults in the program to take part in a wider range of life-skills programs and cultural learning options, as well as online programming, with fewer required hours of participation per week. More flexibility is also being granted for eligible young adults to access mental health and rehabilitative supports while participating in the AYA program, along with a lower hourly requirement for these programs.
“We are incredibly happy to hear that the government will be extending COVID-19 emergency measures for the next year,” said Sarah Stewart, co-chair, BC Coalition to End Youth Homelessness (BCCEYH). “As a coalition comprised of youth with lived experience and youth-servicing agencies, we know that this news will be met with a huge sense of relief. The BCCEYH goal is to end youth homelessness, and we see that one key step in doing this is by creating a youth housing strategy that includes some unique and thoughtful planning for youth in and from care. We are committed to working with government to ensure that our young people who are aging out of care have thoughtful and caring plans and supports in place over this next year and the years to come.”
Government announced emergency measures in March 2020 and has extended measures several times. In September 2020, government extended emergency housing supports to March 31, 2021.
These interim measures further complement government’s economic recovery plan, as well as its COVID-19 Action Plan, to provide income supports, tax relief and direct funding for people, businesses and services.
- Between March 2020 and March 2022, an estimated 1,660 young adults will be eligible to benefit from these emergency measures.
- Life-skills programs provide guidance for things like handling finances, grocery shopping, meal planning and writing a resume to help young people achieve their goals.
- Cultural learning can include things like language learning, learning land-based practices, family mapping, or connecting with cultural knowledge keepers, Elders or cultural mentors.