Australia's welfare 2005 highlights

Preface and Chapter 1 - Introduction (pp. 1-3)

  • Australia's welfare 2005 provides the best available guide to how the Australian welfare system affects large groups of Australians.
  • One of the future challenges for measuring welfare is the commitment of governments to 'whole-of-government' approaches, sometimes described as 'person-centred rather than program-centred' systems of service delivery.
  • Popular perceptions of demographic change such as the 'alarming' rates of population ageing and 'dramatic' fertility declines may give a misleading picture of the actual pattern of need for welfare services.
  • Australia's welfare 2005 features an extended chapter on children, youth and families.
  • In 2004, children aged under 15 comprised 20% of the total Australian population. Welfare policies aimed at children, young people, families with dependent children, and child-friendly communities remain an important focal point for the future.

Chapter 2 - Indicators of Australia's welfare (pp. 4-59)

  • The wellbeing of the Australian population - reflected in the welfare components of healthy living, autonomy and participation, and social cohesion - is generally good, but there are a number of areas for improvement (p. 52).
  • The health of Australians is good, in part due to low pollution levels, reasonably nutritious diets, 70% home ownership, and a general feeling of safety (pp. 6-19).
  • Healthy living is compromised by a rapid rise in obesity among all age groups, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, a higher rate of infant mortality and lower life expectancy (pp. 14-17).
  • Three quarters of Australian students now stay until Year 12, and 80% of Years 3, 5 and 7 meet literacy and numeracy benchmarks (pp. 23-26).
  • Australians have experienced relatively high labour force participation (63.9%) and low unemployment rates between 1994 and 2004 (pp. 32-34).
  • Inequality exists in the distribution of economic resources in Australia: the top income quintile receives 38% of total household disposable income; and the top wealth quintile owns 63% of total household wealth (pp. 27-29).
  • More than 90% of Australians are confident they can receive support when they need it, a third of Australians volunteer, and three-quarters donate to charities (pp. 45-51).
  • Cohesiveness still eludes some members of society-imprisonment rates have increased from 126.9 to 157.1 per 100,000 population in the last 10 years (p. 53).

Chapter 3 - Children, youth and families (pp. 60-133)

  • In June 2004, there were about 4 million children aged 0-14 years and 2.8 million young people aged 15-24 years living in Australia (pp. 62-64).
  • Although the proportion of children in the population has been gradually declining as the population ages, the number of children has been increasing slowly over the last decade. The number of children in 2026 is projected to be about 3.9 million, much the same as in 2004 (p. 63).
  • Trends in family formation and dissolution mean that children today are growing up in a wider variety of family types than 30 years ago. Even so, 7 out of 10 children lived in intact families with their natural parents in 2003. About 2 in 10 children live in a lone parent family and around 1 in 10 step or blended families (p. 68). 
  • The number of dependent and independent young people (aged 18 years and over) living in the family home has grown substantially, although the increase has been greater in two-parent families (p. 127). 
  • Between 1992 and 2003, there was a 46% increase in the number of dependent students aged 15 to 24 living at home. Similar trends can be seen among non-dependent young people, with an increase of around 50% over the 10-year period (p. 127). 
  • About eight out of ten young people complete Year 12 and half of these go on to higher education (p. 103).
  • The role that grandparents play in caring for grandchildren is of growing importance. In 2003, there were more than 22,500 full-time grandparent families caring for more than 31,100 children aged 17 years or under (Table 3.7, p. 70).
  • In the decade to 2003, the proportion of two-parent families where both parents were employed increased from 51% to 59%, making this the most common employment arrangement for two-parent families (p. 71).
  • Families where both parents are unemployed made up a small and declining proportion of two-parent families (6% in 2003, down from 11% in 1993). However, about 200,000 children aged 0-14 years lived in these families (p. 71).
  • Current trends in the participation of the labour force of both two-parent and single parent families suggest an expanding need for child care services, particularly as children get older (p. 85).
  • Between 1991 and 2004, the number of Australian Government-supported child care places increased from 168,276 to 537,759. The largest growth was in places for outside school hour care, which increased from 44,449 to 229,603, or five times higher than in 1991. (Figure 3.7, p. 89).
  • In 2002, about half of children aged under 12 years (or 1.5 million children) used some type of child care, including pre-school. There has been a gradual shift from informal to formal child care over the last 10 years. The proportion using formal care increased from 19% in 1993 to 25% in 2002 (p. 89).
  • Recent data show a steady decline in the affordability of child care services in four out of five family types analysed (Table 3.21, p. 98).
  • There was a 15% increase in the number of children on care and protection orders across Australia between 30 June 2000 and June 2003 - from 19,262 to 22,130 (Figure 3.13, p. 113).
  • In the four years to June 2004, the number of children in out-of-home care increased from 16,923 to 21,795 - an increase of 29% (p. 111).
  • A high rate of family homelessness has meant a significant proportion of Australia's homeless population are now children. In 2003-04, 52,500 children aged 0-17 years accompanied a parent or guardian who sought assistance through the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP). This equates to a rate of nearly 11 children per 1,000 in the Australian population (Table 3.32, p. 126).

Chapter 4 - Ageing and aged care (pp. 134-201)

  • In the 20 years from 2004, the number of people aged 65 years and over is expected to increase from 13% of the population to 20%, reaching almost 5 million by 2024 (Table 4.1, p. 136).
  • The number of very old people (85 years plus) is expected to grow even faster and is projected to reach 725,300 in 2024 - making up nearly 15% of the population aged 65 years and over, up from 12% in 2004 (p. 136). 
  • Older Australians are experiencing falling death rates and greater life expectancy, and most rate their health as good or better (p. 141).
  • Over one quarter of older people (65+) are involved in volunteer work, and 5% are the primary carers of people with a disability. Overall, around one-quarter of all primary carers in Australia are aged 65 years and over (Tables 4.4 & 4.5, pp. 146-147).
  • While almost one-quarter of older people have a severe or profound core activity limitation, the majority of these people remain living in the community (p. 144).
  • The bulk of home- and community-based services for older people are provided through the Home and Community Care Program. In 2003-04, at least 537,100 people aged 65 and over received HACC services - or 210 people per 1,000 (p. 178).
  • Currently, residential aged care is the second most commonly used aged care service after HACC, with around 5% of older people living permanently in residential aged care. Care needs of permanent residents have continued to shift towards higher care needs (p. 176).
  • Total government expenditure on aged care services was $7.3 billion in 2003-04, an increase of 23% in real terms since 2000-01. The largest area of expenditure continues to be residential care (pp. 185-186).
  • Overall, the increase in government expenditure kept pace with the growth in the number of older people likely to need some assistance. In 2003-04, clients also contributed over $1.5 billion in care fees (pp. 185-188).
  • Since 2001, the combined provision of places in residential aged care and community care packages has been gradually growing relative to the number of people aged 70 and over. However, much of this growth has been taken up by the increasing numbers of very old people, and age-specific usage rates have remained fairly static (Tables 4.25 & 4.26, pp. 191-192).  

Chapter 5 - Disability and disability services (pp. 202-269)

  • In 2003, there were 3.9 million people with a disability in Australia - 20% of the population (p. 210).
  • About 4% of the population aged under 65 (677,700 people) had a 'severe or profound limitation', i.e. they reported needing assistance with one or more of the 'core activities' of self-care, mobility and communication (p. 211).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have severe disability rates - more than double those of other Australians in 2002 (p. 221).
  • The main income support programs for people with disabilities and their families are: 
    • the Disability Support Pension (DSP), with almost 697,000 recipients in June 2004 and expenses of $7.5 billion in 2003-04; 
    • the Disability Pension (DVA), with almost 155,000 recipients in June 2004 and $1.3 billion expenses; and 
    • the Carer Allowance (Child/Adult), with 297,600 recipients and $965 million expenses, and the Carer Payment (DSP/ AP/other) with 84,100 recipients and $921 million expenses. (Tables 5.10 & 5.11, pp. 229-232).
  • Disability support services under the CSTDA were provided to 187,806 people during 2003-04. Government expenditure on this program totalled $3.28 billion in 2003-04, more than half of this was used to fund accommodation support services (pp. 237-242).
  • People with disabilities are participating actively in all areas of Australian life, although very large numbers of people experienced difficulties and needed assistance in key areas such as mobility, domestic life, relationships, and employment (pp. 255-257).

Chapter 6 - Assistance for housing (pp. 270-317)

  • Analyses from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) shows that finding affordable, secure and appropriate housing is a major problem for lower income Australian households. This problem is also now affecting moderate income households (p. 271).
  • The availability of low rent housing in the private rental market has not kept pace with the increased demand by low income households (p. 280).
  • Along with the rising demand for affordable housing there has been a drop in the level of public housing stock, decreasing nationally from around 372,100 dwellings in 1995-96 to 345,300 dwellings at 30 June 2004 (p. 280).
  • According to the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), in 2004 an estimated 883,000 families and singles were in housing stress, of which two-thirds were private renters, followed by owners with a mortgage (25%) (Table 6.2, p. 276).
  • Household debt as a proportion of household disposable income has increased from 49% in 1990-91 to 143% in 2004 (Figure 6.1, p.273). The major component of this rise in household debt has been the even greater increase in borrowing for housing. In June 2004, of the 3,975,800 eligible Centrelink clients, 949,700 were receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance. Almost $2.0 billion of assistance was provided in 2003-04 (p. 294).
  • In 2003-04, governments provided $1.28 billion of housing assistance under the CSHA, with public and community housing accounting for the majority of this funding (p. 286).
  • At 30 June 2004, the CSHA public housing and state owned and managed Indigenous housing programs together accommodated 348,469 households (p. 297).
  • In 2003-04, states and territories provided almost $73 million of Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement (CSHA)-funded private rent assistance to more than 150,000 households and $830 million of home purchase assistance to 40,293 households (pp. 294-296).
  • Community housing has a growing role in meeting the increasing demand for adequate and affordable housing. In June 2004, more than 1,100 organisations were managing 26,753 dwellings (p. 302). 
  • Between July 2000 and January 2004, the First Home Owner's Grant scheme provided more than half a million grants totalling about $4.3 billion (p. 308).

Chapter 7 - Services for people experiencing homelessness (pp. 318-361)

  • The number of homeless on Census night 2001 would increase from just under 100,000 to almost 123,000 if caravan park residents were classified under the definition of homelessness in the same way as boarding house residents (p. 319).
  • The number of Indigenous Australians without conventional accommodation ranges between 6,900 and 9,800. Differences in counting methodologies and definitions of dwellings account for the different numbers (p. 321).
  • The Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP), shows that a diverse range of people present at SAAP agencies for a variety of reasons. Groups have distinct experiences of homelessness, require different support, and achieve varying outcomes (p. 329).
  • Men over 45 years of age were more likely to be 'sleeping rough' before presenting at a SAAP agency. They are more likely to be born overseas in an English speaking country and receive drug and alcohol support or intervention, as well as accommodation and basic support such as meals (p. 331).
  • Women escaping domestic violence 20 years old and over are more likely to have come to SAAP from non-marginal housing. They are more likely to be an Indigenous Australian or born in a non-English speaking country. They are more likely to receive counselling or other specialist services (p. 331). 
  • Young women aged 15 to 19 years are more likely to come to SAAP from rent free accommodation or boarding in a private home. They are supported and accommodated for the longest period of time (average length of stay is 50 days) (p. 333).
  • Young men aged 15-19 years in SAAP receive accommodation and assistance to either obtain or maintain non-SAAP accommodation and drug and alcohol support and intervention. They also have relatively long periods of support and accommodation (average length is 41 days). After SAAP support, this age group is less likely to be 'sleeping rough' (p. 333). Overall, recurrent funding to SAAP agencies, adjusted for inflation, has increased by 26% in real terms over the 8 years since 1996-97 (pp. 347-348).
  • In the SAAP population, women consistently outnumber men. In 2003-04, 58% of clients were women, 42% men, with Indigenous women considerably over-represented (21% of all women escaping domestic violence (Table 7.7, p. 332).
  • The highest number of SAAP clients of any of the 8 years was in 2003-04 - 100,200 clients were provided with services (p. 349). On an average day in 2003-04, of almost 400 people requesting immediate accommodation, 213 (53%) were unable to be accommodated by the end of the day. Insufficient accommodation was the most common reason given (p. 330).
  • The turn-away rate for children was even higher. Of the 195 children who required accommodation with their parent/guardian on an average day during 2003-04, 125 (or 64%) were not accommodated (p. 330).
  • Under the latest SAAP Agreement, the Australian Government will contribute about $932 million and the state and territory governments approximately $878 million over the 5-year period to 2010 (p. 351).

Chapter 8 - Welfare services resources (pp. 362-394)

  • The welfare sector is significant in the nation's economy, with $17.1 billion being spent annually on paid services in 2002-03 (p. 363).
  • The value of unpaid services provided by carers and helpers in households was $28.8 billion in 2002-03, and the value of input tax exemptions was $735 million (pp. 363-364).
  • The average annual growth rate in expenditure per person on welfare services in Australia between 1998-99 and 2002-03 was 4.5% per year in real terms (pp. 366-367).
  • Government funding for welfare services grew, in real teams, at an average rate of 5.7% per year between 1998-99 and 2002-03. By far the most rapid growth was in welfare services for families and children (Table 8.8, p. 370).
  • In 2004, there were about 1,362 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers per 100,000 population in community services occupations in Australia - a 17.8% increase in the rate of supply since 1999 (pp. 383-384).
  • Most workers (87%) were female and just over half (52%) worked part-time (p. 382).
  • Employed community services workers are relatively low-paid. Community services workers in the health industry earned about $60 more per week than their colleagues working in the community services industry (pp. 384-385).
  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that of the 14,500 people who performed voluntary work in 2002, just over a third (34%) assisted welfare and community services organisations (pp. 389-390).
  • Family members and volunteers provide substantial support and assistance to other Australians. In 2003, there were approximately 2.6 million people who were carers, representing about 13.0% of people living in households (p. 390).
  • In 2004, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) reported national shortages of child care workers and coordinators; and aged care and community nurses (Table 8.23, p. 385).
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