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author: AIHW

Access to stable, adequate shelter plays a major role in the health and wellbeing of families, and in particular children, by providing a safe environment, the security that allows participation in the social, educational, economic, and community aspects of their lives and the privacy to foster autonomy as an individual and a family unit. This report describes the process of developing a Children¿s Headline Indicator to measure the multidimensional aspects of shelter. It presents research evidence on the associations between shelter and children's wellbeing; assesses potential indicators and data sources; and recommends an indicator based on households experiencing housing disadvantage.

ISBN 978-1-74249-097-7; Cat. no. PHE 132; 56pp.; Internet only


The Children’s Headline Indicators are a set of measures designed to focus policy attention, and to help guide and evaluate policy development on key issues for children’s health, development and wellbeing in 19 priority areas. The Children’s Headline Indicators were endorsed by health, community and disability services ministers and education systems officials in 2006. Children’s Headline Indicators were defined for 16 of the 19 priority areas. For the remaining 3—family social network, social and emotional wellbeing and shelter—more work was needed to conceptualise and identify the most important aspects of these areas to children’s health, development and wellbeing.

This information paper outlines the process of identifying and defining a Headline Indicator for the shelter priority area.

Identifying and defining a Headline Indicator

The process of developing a Headline Indicator for shelter involved:

  • conceptualising the area of shelter; that is, defining the scope, theoretical basis, and main elements of the area
  • reviewing the literature associated with shelter and children’s wellbeing
  • identifying possible indicators through a review of indicator frameworks and reports
  • consultation with key experts and stakeholders.

This process resulted in the identification of three areas in which a potential Headline Indicator for shelter could focus: housing affordability; security of tenure (including housing mobility, home ownership and homelessness); and appropriateness of housing (including overcrowding and dwelling attributes). An indicator incorporating these multiple aspects of shelter is consistent with the research evidence, is more closely associated with the agreed
conceptual basis for shelter and received a high level of support through the consultation and review process.

An indicator of housing disadvantage is therefore recommended as the Children’s Headline Indicator for the area of shelter and is defined as the proportion of children aged 0–12 years living in households experiencing at least one of the specified aspects of housing disadvantage:

  • homelessness (currently experiencing primary, secondary or tertiary homelessness)  
  • overcrowding (where one or more additional bedrooms are required)
  • housing stress (children living in low-income households paying greater than 30% of household income on housing costs)
  • forced residential mobility.

Next steps

Currently there is no single data collection to support reporting against all four components of the housing disadvantage indicator. Therefore in order to report on this indicator, two data sources are required: the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Census of Population and Housing and the ABS Survey of Income and Housing (SIH). It is proposed that the Census be used to capture data for the homelessness component of the indicator and the SIH be used to capture data relating to overcrowding, housing stress and forced residential mobility.

Recommended citation

AIHW 2010. Shelter: development of a Children's Headline Indicator. Cat. no. PHE 132. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 30 May 2017 <http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442472426>.

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