Community services ride high on carers and volunteers - national report

Australia is well-placed to meet the growth of the community services sector into the 21st century with increased support for carers and volunteers and recognition for the important role they play, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's fourth biennial report on the nation's community services.

The 411-page report, Australia's Welfare 1999, will be launched at 10.15 am on Thursday by the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Jocelyn Newman, at the Manning Clark Theatre Centre, Australian National University, Canberra. The report covers welfare services expenditure, children's and family services, housing assistance, child protection and support services, services for homeless people, aged care, and disability services.

A special feature chapter of Australia's Welfare 1999 examines the interactions between changing work patterns and the demand for and supply of community services over the past 20 years. The chapter was written by Professor Peter Saunders, Director of the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

Head of the AIHW's Welfare Division, Dr Ching Choi, said that data presented in the report revealed that carers, volunteers and the 'household sector' had a vital role in providing welfare services for family, friends and neighbours-and Australian governments continued to recognise this.

'In 1997-98, volunteers and carers contributed an estimated $24.8 billion to welfare services, and each year they work 1,730 million hours providing informal care in the community and at home,' Dr Choi said.

'In aged care, government expenditure has risen in line with the increase in the number of older people. There has been increased carer support generally, but particularly with respite care to give people caring for older people a break.'

Dr Choi said that data presented in the report helped governments and the community to see more clearly any changes in areas of need, and what is happening with service provision, service use, and outcomes.

Australia's Welfare 1999 shows that Australia is spending more on welfare services than ever before. Total expenditure on welfare services increased from $4.7 billion in 1988-89 to $10.9 billion in 1997-98, or a rise from 1.4% to 1.9% of Gross Domestic Product.

Of the $10.9 billion spent in 1997-98, 31% was funded by the Commonwealth, 33% by the States and Territories, 11% from non-government organisations' own funds, and 25% from fees and charges to clients.


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