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3.3  High-level findings

Comparisons of children and youth considered to be at risk in different time periods are unlikely to be very meaningful, as the data being collected by agencies, and subsequently incorporated into the IDI, has developed over time. Changes could be due to changes in the underlying data collections. As such, the focus of attention should be primarily on comparisons within the same time period.

The number of children at risk

Overall, the estimated population of children aged 0 to 5 decreased in size by about 2 percent between December 2013 and December 2015, while the population of children aged 6 to 14 increased by a similar relative margin (overall, there were 8,000 fewer 0 to 5-year-olds in 2015, and 11,000 more 6 to 14-year-olds). The proportion of children estimated to be at risk of poor outcomes decreased somewhat across all age groups, from 15.3 percent to 13.3 percent in the case of 0 to 5-year-olds, and from 14.4 percent to 13.8 percent in the case of 6 to 14-year-olds. As discussed above, this shift over time may not be meaningful however. Figure 1 shows the relative size of the different groups of children at risk as at December 2015.

Figure 1: Size of child and youth risk groups, December 2015
Figure 1: Size of child and youth risk groups, December 2015 (0 to 5 year old risk groups, 6 to 14 year old risk groups, 15 to 19-year-old risk groups, 20 to 24 year old risk groups)  .

As described in Ball et al. (2016), children are identified as being at risk through the use of four risk indicators identified from the linked data. The more of these risk indicators a child has, the more likely they are to have poor outcomes in later life. The risk indicators are:

  • having a Child Youth & Family finding of abuse or neglect
  • being mostly supported by benefits since birth
  • having a parent with a prison or community sentence
  • having a mother with no formal qualifications.

We identify three groups of children at risk; those with two or more risk indicators (less than 15 percent of children), those with three or more risk indicators (less than 5 percent of children), and those with all four risk indicators (less than 1 percent of children). The latter risk groups are contained within the earlier groups as illustrated in Figure 1 (ie, those with all 4 risk indicators are also considered to be part of the 2+ and 3+ risk indicator groups).

The number of youth at risk

The estimated population of youth aged 15 to 19 decreased in size by less than a percent between December 2013 and December 2015, while the population of youth aged 20 to 24 increased by less than a percent (overall, there were 900 fewer 15 to 19-year-olds in 2015, and 2,400 more 20 to 24-year-olds). The proportion of youth estimated to be in at least one target population risk group decreased slightly across both age groups, from 14.0 to 13.8 percent of 15 to 19-year-olds, and from 9.6 to 8.3 percent of 20 to 24-year-olds. As discussed earlier, this shift over time does not necessarily indicate there has been a reduction in risk over time.

Figure 1 shows the relative size of the different groups of youth at risk as at December 2015. As described in McLeod et al. (2015) youth are identified as being at risk through a wide variety of indicators that are linked to poor outcomes in early adulthood and later in life.

Combinations of these indicators are used to define ten 'target population' risk groups, five at ages 15 to 19, and five at ages 20 to 24. These target populations are all associated with poor future outcomes, but the extent of that association varies across the different outcome domains. Young people can be in more than one target population, so the total population considered to be at risk is smaller than would be calculated by summing across the target populations.

Projected outcomes and costs

The analysis underpinning the Ball et al. (2016) and McLeod et al. (2015) papers was based on looking at people who were born in 1993, and tracking their experiences and outcomes through to young adulthood. Future outcomes were then projected out even further by linking data for this birth cohort to an earlier birth cohort (specifically the July 1978 to June 1979 birth cohort) and observing their outcomes through to age 35.[6] Because the matching exercise was not repeated as part of the current work, projected outcomes have not changed since the earlier release of SII, and do not change depending on the year selected.

Figure 2 shows projected outcomes for children considered to not be at risk (those with fewer than two risk indicators) with those considered to be at risk (those with two or more risk indicators). Projected outcomes were estimated across all children aged 0 to 14, and as a result do not differ for 0 to 5-year-olds and 6 to 14-year-olds. For children who are not at risk, failing to achieve a level 2 qualification is the most prevalent poor outcome (23 percent), while around 60 percent of those with two or more risk indicators are projected to have future contact with CYF, and around a half to not achieve a level 2 qualification. All outcomes were much less prevalent in the not-at-risk group of children, as is evident when comparing the y-axes of the graphs.

Figure 2: Projected future outcomes for children by number of risk factors
Figure 2: Projected future outcomes for children by number of risk factors (Fewer than 2 risk indicators, 2+ risk indicators)  .

Projected costs are also presented in Insights, and include income support payments, costs associated with serving sentences administered by the Department of Corrections, and costs associated with the services provided by CYF in childhood. They are presented in 2013 dollars. In general projected costs are less than $50,000 per person for children and youth who are not considered to be at risk, while they are at least $180,000 and as much as $410,000 for different risk groups.

Figure 3 shows projected outcomes for youth aged 15 to 24[7] by whether they were in any of the target population risk groups, or in no target population risk group. As with children, youth considered to be at risk had a much higher likelihood of poor outcomes, while those who were not in a target population were predicted to be more likely to have earnings at age 34.

Figure 3: Projected future outcomes for youth by whether in a target population risk group
Figure 2: Projected future outcomes for children by number of risk factors (15 to 19-year-olds - Not in a target population risk group and In any target population risk group, 20 to 24-year-olds - Not in a target population risk group and In any target population risk group)  .

Notes

  • [6] Records were linked on the basis of gender, ethnicity, benefit receipt and corrections sentencing rates and patterns at ages 16 to 21.
  • [7] Note that some young people are already over the age about which the outcome was estimated for. These outcomes were observed rather than projected for the 1993 birth cohort, and applied to our current population of youth.
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