Domestic violence a major factor in homelessness among women and children

Domestic violence is a major factor contributing to homelessness in Australia, particularly for women, reveals a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Female SAAP clients and children escaping domestic and family violence 2003-04, says that in 2003-04, approximately 33% or 32,700 of the 100,200 clients accessing the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) were women escaping domestic violence.

Of the 52,700 accompanying children accessing the SAAP, 66% or 34,700 were children accompanying women escaping domestic violence.

Justin Griffin, Head of the AIHW's Supported Accommodation and Crisis Services Unit, said, 'These numbers show that the SAAP is an important program for many thousands of women and children in Australia.'

The report showed that children in the domestic violence group were significantly more likely to have their requests for health, medical services and behavioural problems met than children accompanying other SAAP clients.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children are over-represented in the SAAP female domestic violence group.

'Indigenous women make up 2% of the female Australian population but 24% of the female SAAP clients escaping domestic violence in 2003-04,' Mr Griffin said.

In general, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the SAAP domestic violence group tended to have shorter and more frequent support periods than women from other cultural groups - an average of 1.8 support periods averaging 26 days, compared to an average of 1.5 support periods ranging from 58 to 79 days for other cultural groups.

The average daily turn-away rate for agencies targeted at women escaping domestic violence was 48%. This equates to about one in two women unable to be accommodated at this type of agency. The turn-away rate for SAAP agencies overall was 52%.

'Although only slightly more than half of the women seeking SAAP accommodation from domestic violence agencies were able to be immediately accommodated, domestic violence agencies were, by comparison, able to meet urgent requests for accommodation more often than agencies for families, young people, single women and cross-target or general agencies,' Mr Griffin stated.

After receiving support, the proportion of women who reported living alone with children increased, compared to those living alone prior to receiving support, which suggests that SAAP services are able to contribute in several ways to the ability of women and children to leave violent living situations.

28 September 2005

Further information: Justin Griffin tel. 02 6244 1206 or 0419 239 581

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 02 6244 1032.