May 30, 2020 |
Young people have been impacted in many ways by COVID-19.
Youthlaw is a statewide specialist community legal centre working with under 25s. They offer phone, email and drop-in services as well as outreach programs with community partners.
Youthlaw runs the RMIT Student Legal Service and works closely with youth homelessness and housing services like Frontyard Youth Services in the CBD. They also run the ground-breaking Legal Pods program where private lawyers provide ongoing pro bono legal support to young people who have left foster, kinship or residential care.
One example was Chris*, a young person who had been camping in rural Victoria due to homelessness. During this time his drivers license was cancelled by VicRoads, leaving him stranded without the ability to legally drive.
Chris contacted Youthlaw and we were able to assist in having the notices sent by VicRoads (to a previous address) declared invalid and his license was reinstated.
He then drove to our legal clinic at Frontyard Youth Services and was able to get immediate access to temporary housing and mental health support. This is one example of why a partnerships model is so effective.
Advocacy and Human Rights Officer, Tiffany Overall, said it’s been a journey for Youthlaw in adapting to new ways of working and fluctuating demand.
“Initially we just weren’t hearing from a lot of young people, I think they were just in shock. Now that we’ve got the message out that we are still open, offering support over the phone or online, phone calls and emails have increased back to our normal demand levels.”
“We are still doing some face-to-face work where there is a need, such as the Children’s’ Court, which is not always doing remote appearances for family violence matters.”
“We are fielding more tenancy queries than usual and general information queries about the health restrictions and COVID fines are also high. There is still a lot of confusion and concern in the community.”
“We are advocating with the Victorian Government and Department of Justice and Community Safety around youth justice and detention policies to reduce the number of children and young people imprisoned locked up at this time. There is a strong public health argument for reducing prison and detention centre populations during the health crisis.”
“Children and young people are more vulnerable during times of crisis, whether it is violence in the family home, vulnerability while experiencing homelessness, or things like fines and police attention when out and about. At a time like this, they need to know we are there and that we have their backs.”
Youthlaw provides free and confidential legal information and advice to young people up to the age of 25. Call us on (03) 9113 9500 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday). Visit www.youthlaw.asn.au for more information.
*Name changed for privacy reasons