Welfare services spending up

Spending on welfare services in Australia in 1999-00 was $13.7 billion-about 2.2% of Gross Domestic Product-and up 4.3% in real terms compared with 1998-99 figures, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Welfare Services Expenditure Bulletin Number 6 shows that of the $13.7 billion, 63% was spent by the government sector, 23% came from clients, and 14% was contributed by non-government community services organisations.

The government sector's expenditure was $8.6 billion, up 3.2% in real terms on the previous year. Approximately 54% was funded by State and Territory Governments, 45% by the Commonwealth Government, and the remaining 1% by local governments.

While governments were the major funders of services, non-government community services organisations were the major providers of services-providing 57% of the total value of services.

Of the 43% of services provided by governments, State and Territory governments delivered 33% of services, local governments 5%, and the Commonwealth 4%.

Total public sector funding of welfare services was on average $450 per person. The non-government sector contributed $267 per person.

Report author Maneerat Pinyopusarerk said that welfare services expenditure figures do not include high-level residential aged care or home-based nursing care (which are classified as health services), nor long-term housing assistance.

'And it is also important to realise that we are reporting only on services where money changes hands.

'As we know, a great many welfare services are provided by volunteers working in non-government community services organisations, and by carers in households. We estimated the value of the unpaid contribution of the household sector at $25 billion in 1997-98.'

The AIHW warned that there had been some unexplained shifts in expenditure figures reported by the States and Territories since government finance statistics moved from a cash accounting system to an accrual system in 1998-99.

'We need to do further checks on the extent of those shifts in 1998-99 and 1999-00', Ms Pinyopusarerk said.

'We are working with the States and Territories to refine collection and compilation processes under the accrual system so that we can be sure that our data remain of the highest quality.'


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