Australia leads the world in its co-ordinated approach to the collection of data on the needs of the nation's homeless, and the services provided to them, Family Services Minister, Warwick Smith, said today.
Mr Smith was releasing the first annual report of a new national database which draws on information from almost 1200 agencies providing support to homeless Australians.
"The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program's (SAAP) National Data Collection is unique. Nowhere else in the world are the various levels of government and service providers working together to provide ongoing and accurate information on this issue," Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said the report's information would contribute significantly to understanding homelessness in Australia.
"These comprehensive statistics will assist governments and service providers to improve the support and assistance given to homeless Australians."
The report has found that the major form of support provided to clients over the past 12 months is crisis, or short-term accommodation.
Of all women seeking supported accommodation assistance, 38 per cent were escaping domestic violence and 14 per cent were seeking help through SAAP because of family or relationship breakdown.
"This finding is significant in terms of future directions for SAAP," Mr Smith said.
"The Government is already providing an additional $3.3 million to continue the Rural and Remote Domestic Violence initiative, which has established information and referral services in rural and remote areas for women and children experiencing domestic violence.
"The Government is also providing an additional $2 million to explore the best ways of working with families, and in particular adolescent boys, who are victims of domestic violence.
"This is in addition to the $240 million which the Commonwealth and States will jointly provide this year to support the work of SAAP agencies."
Data collected in the report shows that 101,000 people around Australia sought help through SAAP in 1996/97. Males made up 52 per cent of users, and females 48 per cent. Clients aged 15-19 years accounted for a quarter of SAAP clients.
"This information will allow SAAP to monitor and assess issues such as client circumstances and the age, gender and cultural background of people who are homeless," Mr Smith said.
"It will also assist governments to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of the program."
The SAAP National Data Collection was established in July last year. It has widespread support from all levels of government and the community sector. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare collects and analyses data from government departments and SAAP agencies to include in national and state reports.
This is the first time nationally consistent information which protects client confidentiality has been available on an ongoing basis.
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