Conundrums for Policy and Practice Regarding Vulnerable Youth

Friday, July 18, 2014: 3:50 PM
Room: F205
Oral Presentation
Kitty TE RIELE , The Victoria Institute, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
Many youth related policies and institutions are aimed at supporting vulnerable young people to prevent problems from arising, to catch problems early, and to assist young people who are experiencing problems. Identifying some young people as vulnerable (or ‘troubled’, or ‘at risk’ – the terminology varies) rather than providing such services for everyone  enables limited resources to be targeted at those who need them most.

This poses several conundrums. First, selecting some young people for special attention creates the dual risk of stigmatising some and excluding others. However, not singling them out may lead to further disadvantage. This creates a dilemma for the provision of services for young people. Secondly, determining which young people warrant what kinds of support and when is a fraught issue. The criteria for such 'triage' are rarely clear-cut. At the policy level, this challenge focuses especially on which priorities to highlight in public announcements and through funding. At the practice level, enactment of policies may affect how and to whom programs are advertised, and who is considered eligible. How such decisions are made impacts on individual young people who are targeted (or not) and also impacts on their community and wider society. Getting this 'right' is important in terms of equity, social cohesion, cost-effectiveness and the quality of life of young Australians.

The presentation will engage with these conundrums by not only exploring how and why certain young people are identified as vulnerable in relevant policy, but also the policy-practice nexus and the potential impacts of such challenges.