Last updated 29 April

The Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA) is committed to acting as a leader for the youth sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. Our goal is to work in partnership with the State Government to ensure the youth sector can safely minimise community transmission, flatten the curve, and minimise the economic impacts on the sector. We are consulting widely with young people and sector representatives to understand their needs.

Our role in the emerging crisis falls under the following functions:

  1. Listen to the youth sector. YACWA can understand the issues, concerns, and needs felt by the entirety of the youth sector, across diverse modes of service provision, and coordinate this information to be appropriately actioned.
  2. Communicate sector needs. YACWA can provide key decision-makers with appropriate advice to meet the needs of the youth sector, with a focus on maintaining operationality, client and staff safety, and supporting community efforts to minimise transmission.
  3. Share and coordinate. YACWA can act to support young people and the youth sector by sharing solutions to emerging issues, promoting resources and advice, and assisting organisations to share available assets, minimising further resourcing requirements from the State Government.

Immediate Requirements for Young People and the Youth Sector

  1. Identification of essential (critical) youth services to continue operating.
    Services are unsure if they are required to continue operating during the COVID-19 outbreak and are shifting service provision on an individual basis. Services require immediate guidance regarding continued operation. Critical services continuing to operate must be supplied with priority access to supplies (including groceries) and personal protective equipment (PPE). Provide ordering processes for these services to access PPE
  2. Communicating ongoing changes to service provision
    Service provision is changing rapidly across the state in response to the COVID-19 situation. Service providers and young people alike are reporting confusion on what is available and how to refer young people in need. The sector requires a responsive and up-to-date guide of available services and changes to delivery models. This could be actioned by YACWA with appropriate resourcing, coordinating providers to update information and share this online.
  3. Guidance from the Department of Health on Quarantine & Self-Isolation Spaces.
    Crisis and supported accommodation services are reporting concerns regarding their ability to meet safe quarantine requirements, in the event a young person in their service contracts (or is suspected to have contracted) COVID-19. The specifications of what services can provide differs greatly between providers dependent on infrastructure, and timely advice is needed to ensure these arrangements are adequate and safe.
  4. Provide targeted information and advice for young people social distancing and mental health and wellbeing.
    Young people are diverse, with diverse responses to the ongoing outbreak and social distancing measures. Many are adhering to social distancing requirements appropriately, however a minority are not. Targeted information for young people to support behaviour change is needed, with advice from the Department of Health. Young people are also highly affected by the social distancing measures, and many are experiencing mental health difficulties. For young people with unsafe home environments, this may be exacerbated. Young people need targeted mental health supports during this time which can be supported through online messaging and service provider engagement.
  5. Changes to Justice approaches to support community safety and transparency of detention arrangements.
    YACWA is aware that young people are still being required to attend face-to-face meetings as a result of the Court Orders and community-based management, which pose significant risks during social distancing measures. These must be shifted to videoconferencing or managed by appropriate community sector providers immediately. We also request urgent clarification from the Department of Justice on how operational procedures within Banksia Hill Detention Centre, such as visiting arrangements and quarantine processes are adapted to balance COVID-19 restrictions with effective standards of care.
  6. Direction for WA Police to work with youth homelessness services to enable support for street present young people to access effective outreach and follow adequate isolation procedures.
    YACWA is concerned that a punitive approach to enforce self-isolation will disproportionately impact street present young people who often congregate because they have nowhere else to go. Police Officers and Juvenile Justice Teams must partner with outreach services to ensure young people avoid unnecessary sentencing and instead are provided with the support needed to access both wraparound services and the safe accommodation needed to isolate.

YACWA’s Action to Date

YACWA will continue to act as a leader throughout this crisis and collaboratively develop
solutions to emerging youth sector issues. So far, YACWA is undertaking the following

  1. Coordinating state-wide responses from the youth sector
    On 25 March 2020 YACWA met with over 200 youth service providers via video conference to determine their immediate needs and emerging issues to service provision. This included specific consultation with crisis and supported accommodation providers and regional service providers. YACWA will continue to meet regularly with providers over the coming weeks to support information sharing and provide up-to-date advice to decision-makers and State Government agencies.
  2. Providing advice to Cabinet Ministers
    YACWA is meeting with Cabinet members to provide updates and advice to support the operation and safety of the community sector. This includes engagement with the Premier and Minister for Community Services.
  3. Engagement with key decision-making bodies
    YACWA currently sits on the follow COVID-19 response bodies:

    • Departmental Youth Taskforce — Co-Chair (hosted by the Department of Communities)
      This body is currently being established by the Department of Communities. YACWA will Co-Chair this group alongside a Departmental representative.
    • WA Peaks Community Sector COVID-19 Response Group (hosted by WACOSS)
      This body is coordinating advice and actions across the community sector through existing peak bodies. This includes representation across portfolios, such as WAAMH, WANADA and Shelter WA.
    • WA Government Community Services Working Group COVID-19 (hosted by the Department of Finance)
      This body is supporting contracted service providers to remain operational and safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. YACWA input is focused on guidance for the sector and ensuring appropriate flexibility from contract managers on key deliverables.
    • The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC)
      This body consists of representation from each State and Territory’s peak body for young people and coordinates advocacy to the Federal Government.
  4. Distributing resources and guidance to the youth sector
    YACWA is currently collating advice for youth service providers and workers to support their safe operation during the COVID-19 outbreak. A research portal is being developed for the YACWA website to promote:

    • Examples of best practice maintaining service provision
    • Emerging research in response to COVID-19
    • Advice and up-skilling on telecommunications platforms
    • Mental health support and advice for both staff and young people.
    • Specific resources on:
      • Centrelink
      • Accommodation/housing
      • Maintaining health & wellbeing
      • Health and sexual health
      • Youth justice and children’s court
      • AOD
      • Emergency relief
      • Family/social relationships
      • Recreational activities.