REGINA -- The Saskatchewan government says it will be further extending support services for youth in care who would have been transitioning to independence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government said today the support services will be extended up to January 5. The services were set to end on June 30.

The extension allows young people to have greater choice in planning for transition to independence, the government said.

“We want young people to have options available to them when planning for their transition to independence that ensure their safety and well-being during the pandemic,” said Social Services Minister Paul Merriman, in a news release.

The government initially extended supports in late March as part of the Social Services Pandemic Plan.

It said case workers will be contacting youth and their caregivers to let them know about the option to extend supports and services. Youth also have the option of transitioning earlier if they wish.

Several youth in care networks, including the Saskatchewan Youth in Care and Custody Network (SYICCN), have requested that delays aren’t lifted.

Richard Rothenburger, the provincial outreach co-ordinator with SYICCN, said the organization is pleased with the extension.

“We look forward to continued work with the Ministry of Social Services to ensure the health and wellbeing of youth in care during and after this pandemic,” he said in the news release.

The government expects the total cost of extending services to be around $1.5 million. It said the change allows almost 180 youth to be eligible for extended supports. Previously, 44 youth were eligible.