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The use of disability support services in Australia is increasing, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2010-11, provides information on services aimed at improving the lives of people with disability and their carers, and enhancing their opportunities for social and community engagement.

Over 314,000 people used disability support services in 2010-11, a 7% rise in service users compared with the previous year.  

'Indeed the number of service users has been rising for some time, with a 45% rise from 2005-06 to 2010-11', said AIHW spokesperson Brent Diverty.

'The rate of service use also rose, from about 1 in 94 people in the Australian population in 2005-06 to 1 in 71 people in 2010-11.'

The use of disability employment services, in particular, has increased. In 2005-06, 34% of service users used employment services, rising to 41% of service users in 2010-11.

In 2010-11, service users most often had an intellectual (30%), psychiatric (20%) or physical disability (17%).  Most service users needed some assistance in the activities of daily living (52%); the activities of independent living (60%); and the activities of work, education and community living (57%).

'The median age of service user was 33, and most (59%) service users were male,' Mr Diverty said.

'Most service users were born in Australia (82%) and 6% of service users aged under 65 identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.'

Spending on disability support services in Australia is also increasing, rising in real terms by 2% to $6.2 billion between 2009-10 and 2010-11. However, spending per service user fell by 4-6% for most types of services over the same period.

'The number of people using services has risen at a faster rate than spending on those services, but it is also possible that there have been efficiency improvements in the delivery of services', Mr Diverty said.

The number of service users with an informal carer has increased by 31% since 2005-06. In 2010-11, 44% of service users had an informal carer. In most cases (80%), that carer was a primary carer who provided help with one or more of the activities of daily living, such as self-care, mobility or communication.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 21 September 2012

Further information: Mr Brent Diverty, AIHW, ph. 02 6249 5096 mob. 0418 271 395

Full report: Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2010-11