VULNERABLE LGBTI young people will suffer disproportionately and may be at increased risk of homelessness under changes to welfare benefits announced by the Federal Government as part of Tuesday’s budget.
According to leading community advocates, young LGBTI people are often unable to rely on family support, with many rejected by their families after coming out.
Youth homelessness and drug outreach lawyer Lee Carnie from Youthlaw told the Star Observer that without access to family support or unemployment benefits, young LGBTI were particularly at risk.
“At Youthlaw, we regularly assist young people who have been forced to leave the family home because of family violence or family conflict arising from their sexual orientation or gender expression,” she said.
“The first six months after leaving home can have a huge impact on a young person and the path their life will take. We are concerned that with no income, no family support and limited youth housing options available, young LGBTIQ people experiencing homelessness will turn to crime or be buried under mounting personal debt to fund their basic living and survival costs.”
The Growing Up Queer report released earlier this year identified rejection by families as a key driver of “homelessness and economic instability” for LGBTI young people, with those from particular religious or cultural backgrounds at increased risk.
The same report echoed the findings of a number of studies looking at significantly higher rates of mental illness in the LGBTI community, with young people particularly vulnerable. Growing Up Queer found 16 per cent of LGBTI young people have attempted suicide, and one third have self-harmed.
General manager Micah Scott from LGBTI youth organisation Minus 18 told the Star Observer young people involved in the organisation were terrified about the impact of the changes announced in the budget.
Scott described a volunteer with Minus 18 who has left school and found herself unemployed due to mental illness, and has not been able to rely on her family’s support. She has been accepted into a tertiary course, but it does not commence until around six months after the welfare changes come into effect on January 1, 2015.
“She doesn’t have the support from her family and has had to move out of home. We hear those sorts of stories all the time,” Scott said.
“It’s one of the most common experiences of LGBTI young people, particularly within Minus 18, and it is quite scary for us.”