Be the change - equal opportunities for Care Leavers in Austria

The 21st of February 2020 marked the 5th International Care Day. This day is dedicated to young adults who have spent part of their lives in alternative care and are in transition to an independent life: Care Leavers.

FICE Austria took this an opportunity to bring the Care Day to Austria for the first time and together with the Platform “Youth Welfare 18+” organized the symposium "Be the Change - Equal Opportunities for Care Leavers" on the 21.02.2020 in the Vienna City Hall to jointly create awareness of this topic.

The symposium explored the question of what (new) forms of (after)care and integration Care Leavers need and want, and what services are already available.

Through the participation of the upcoming Care Leaver association "Care Leaver Austria", a culture of self-representation was supported in Austria and the voice of Care Leavers was strengthened. A voice that must be heard by politics and society.

More than 200 people attended the conference, more than 30 registrations could not be considered due to overbooking.

The great rush to the Care Day, shows that the attention of experts and politicians has finally arrived at this topic.

The event presented a wide range of activities for Care Leavers that have taken place in recent years or are currently being developed. These include the newly founded association "Care Leaver Austria" with a fantastic networking opportunity for those affected via the Youthlinks platform, which has emerged from the EU project "Leaving Care", the Care Leaver Mentoring Project of Volkshilfe Vienna, the EU project "A Way Home" from Carinthia, and the latest measures launched by the County of Vorarlberg in the form of care vouchers offered to young people after leaving care.

Photos of the Symposium - which must always be used with the photo credit "©Volkshilfe Wien, John K." can be found here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1SkntjwFp3lyaZ7GVigt_LkkXZyrimjqx

As spokesman for the Platform Youth welfare 18+, Hubert Löffler presented the principle of "public parenthood" at the symposium. From this principle derive the 5 demands of the platform, which must be made for an improved form of help for young adults who have left care. These are the demands for legal entitlement, for flexibility, for continuity in relationships, for a proactive attitude and a ban on stigmatisation. These demands are obvious to good parents, experts and even most politicians, because they are part and parcel of good families in our society.

Furthermore, Maximilian Ullrich of FICE Austria presented the results of the two-year EU project "Leaving Care - An Integrated Approach to Capacity Building of Professionals and Young People", in the framework of which more than 385 care professionals were trained in the six EU partner countries, Care Leaver networks were established, demands to policy makers were elaborated and national conferences for further advocacy work were held.

Further on in the conference programme, various methods and examples of support for Care Leavers in Austria were presented in eight parallel short workshops. Two of these workshops were conducted by Care Leavers.

The symposium "Be the Change" was organised in a very short time and in a highly professional manner by the staff of FICE Austria (Maximilian Ullrich and Roger Winandy) and Volkshilfe Vienna (Doris Moravec and others). The City Hall was provided by the City of Vienna and the MAG ELF (Magistrate for Child and Youth Welfare of Vienna). Sincere thanks to them!

The symposium was also held as the final conference of the two-year EU project "Leaving Care" and was thus supported and co-financed by the project initiator SOS Children Villages International, FICE Austria and the Rights Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Commission.

Furthermore, the symposium was largely supported and co-financed by Volkshilfe Vienna, a_way - Caritas Emergency Sleep Centre for young people, the DÖJ – Umbrella Association of Austrian Child and Youth Services Organisations, OBDS - Austrian Professional Association of Social Work, Jugend am Werk Steiermark and the Austrian League for Child and Youth Health.

Further information:

Current developments:

In Vienna, the concrete financial need for the support of young adults is being assessed and the return on investment is to be calculated. In Carinthia, a further discussion between the state and the Platform Youth welfare 18+ will take place on 3rd of March.

A feature from our conference was also broadcast in the Social Pod on the subject of "Child and Youth Services", consisting of 3 half-hour podcasts.

Furthermore, reference is made to a fact sheet on the concept of age in politics, which was prepared by the Committee for Child and Youth Health of the Ministry of Health. It states that Care Leavers "should be granted a legal right to support beyond the age of majority".

The new government programme also envisages on p. 284 for the "continuation of care for care leavers after the age of 18".

With the first Care Day, we have created a momentum and a level of awareness for the Care Leavers agenda in Austria, from which much positive can still develop for the next generations of Austrian Care Leavers.

With this conference we have laid the foundation for the annual Care Day, which will hopefully meet with ever-growing approval and we look forward to continuing this in a further cooperation!

Facit: The time has come to implement new forms of help for young adults leaving care!