British Columbia is expanding a program that provides financial help to young people who have turned 19 and aged out of provincial care.

Children and Families Minister Stephanie Cadieux says youth who were formally in care will now be eligible for funding under the Agreements with Young Adults program until they turn 26, up from the previous age of 24.

The expansion will also extend the amount of time young people can receive benefits from two years to four, and will add courses to teach life skills such as cooking and financial planning.

To be eligible, youth must have plans that include life-skills training, post-secondary education or attending a mental health or addictions treatment program.

Cadieux says on average, young people receive about $1,000 per month and the ministry says there were 654 open files as of August.

The minister estimates about 500 additional young people will come forward and the changes will bump the cost of the program from $3.7 million per year to $5 million, but says there will not be a cap on funding.

The changes will directly affect 22-year-old Barbara-Jean Johnson, who currently lives at Covenant House and is part of a program designed to get young people off the streets.

"You go from being completely dependant on a government system to no supports, and you have to make it on your own or else there's only one other option — and that's, you know, game over," she said.

"So you need supports to gradually exit the system, not just to jump off the edge and hope you live."

With files from Tanya Fletcher