David could have cost taxpayers a high price, but intervention was at hand – The Age

Noel Towell reports in his article, published in The Age 7 January 2022, that people in crises are expensive.

In 2019, the state of Victoria spent about $68 billion in total and 45 per cent of it – about $30 billion – went on acute services with spending on prisons, child protection and acute health services all growing faster than the state’s revenue.

But programs such as the COMPASS care leavers program, run by Anglicare Victoria and VincentCare, as critical in attempting to shift the balance of state government spending away from crisis management to early intervention.

As David Wendon prepared to leave state care three years ago, he looked likely to become quite an expensive problem for the state of Victoria.

Young people who have been in the care system are grossly over-represented among users of the most costly “acute” government services: hospitals, police, courts, prisons, homelessness services and treatments for drugs and alcohol.

Mr Wendon says he would have been no different if someone had not staged an intervention into his fledgling adult life.

“To be honest, I probably would have been a f—ing junkie on the side of the road, or just doing nothing with my life, floating around on Centrelink payments,” the now 20-year-old told The Age.

“Or I could just be out robbing a servo for a couple of grand.”

But Mr Wendon is not doing any of those things. He has a place of his own, holds down a steady job, and he credits it all to COMPASS – an intensive “across the board” intervention into the lives of young care leavers.

Support workers from COMPASS, which is run by the two charities for the state government, gave Mr Wendon the type of support into adulthood usually provided by parents of youngsters who had luckier starts in life.

The workers helped him get his first job and drove him there every day before he got his driver’s licence, again with the program’s help. They took him to medical appointments and helped arrange mental health support.

Crucially, COMPASS puts young people into subsidised housing until they are ready to support themselves in the rental market.

“They help you out across the board, they go out of their way to help you. Even on a Saturday they’ll answer their phones,” Mr Wendon said.

“You would never get that from any other government worker.”

Anglicare Victoria Chief Executive Officer Paul McDonald says more than anything else, COMPASS is about changing lives.

“We’ve seen that these young people, with the right opportunities and the right resources and the right relationship can start to carve out a good life,”

“That’s what COMPASS is about preparing these young people to have good starts in life.”

Read Noel Towell’s complete article in The Age here: ‘David could have cost taxpayers a high price, but intervention was at hand