One in every 130 accessing services for the homeless

One in every 130 Australians - an estimated 152,900 people - received accommodation or other support services for the homeless in 2003-04 through the government-funded Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP), according to the SAAP annual report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Of these people, 100,200 were adults or unaccompanied children and 52,700 were children accompanying their parent or guardian to receive assistance from the 1,300 SAAP agencies operating across Australia in that year.

Acting Welfare Division Head at AIHW, Justin Griffin, said the report showed a large variation in the rates of SAAP service use in the general population according to age, with very young children the most likely to visit a SAAP agency.

'One in 54 children aged 0-4 years accompanied their parent or guardian to a SAAP agency at some time during 2003-04. This is the highest rate of use for any age group,' Mr Griffin said.

'The highest rate of use for clients was for 18-19 year olds, with 1 in every 71 people in this age group using a SAAP service.'

The report, Homeless People in SAAP: SAAP National Data Collection Annual Report 2003-04, cited domestic violence as the main reason clients gave for seeking agency support, with this reason given in 20% of cases overall. However, the main reason varied according to age and gender.

'Domestic violence was the primary reason for seeking support in 48% of cases involving females with children and in 39% of cases involving unaccompanied females aged 25 years and over,' Mr Griffin said.

The next main reason given by clients for seeking support was financial difficulty (14% of all cases) - the most common reason given by unaccompanied male clients aged 25 years and over - unavailability of usual accommodation (11%), eviction or the ending of previous accommodation (10%) and relationship or family breakdown (9%).

SAAP agencies directly provided services for 90% of requests during 2003-04, and were able to refer clients to other organisations for a further 6% of requests.

Direct provision of requested services by SAAP agencies was particularly high for basic support services such as meals and shower facilities (provided in 98% of cases) and general support and advocacy services (95%). Requests for housing or accommodation were met in 83% of cases.

In other findings, females were more likely to use SAAP services than males (59% compared to 42%), and this was true across all states and territories, and most SAAP clients (85%) were born in Australia, with Indigenous clients accounting for 17% of all clients.

18 March 2005

Further information: Mr Justin Griffin, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1206 or 0413 384 570; Ms Anne Giovanetti, AIHW,
tel. 02 6244 1122, or 0407 915 851.