Two bulletins issued today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that of the 157,200 people who accessed the major program supporting homeless people in 2004-05, 68,100 or 43% were children.
The two bulletins Homeless Children in SAAP 2004-05: summary findings, and the more detailed Homeless Children in SAAP 2004-05, look at children entering the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) who either accompanied a parent or guardian, or sought assistance on their own.
Report author Felicity Murdoch, of the AIHW's Supported Accommodation and Crisis Services Unit, said the reports show that the majority of accompanied children were under 12 years of age and the majority of children on their own were aged 14 years and over.
'Very young children had the highest rate of use with one in every 51 Australian children aged 0-4 years accompanying a parent or guardian to a SAAP agency at some time during 2004-05, she said.
For unaccompanied children, the highest rate of SAAP use was by 16-17 year-olds, with one in every 70 young people in this age bracket accessing a SAAP service in 2004-05.
The main reasons that people with children sought support were issues around interpersonal relationships (58%), particularly domestic violence (41%). For unaccompanied children aged 12-17 years, the main reasons were also issues around interpersonal relationships (52%), but in this case with an emphasis on relationship or family breakdown (24%).
The vast majority (94%) of services requested for accompanied children were able to be provided directly, with the most common unmet need being for counselling services.
Services requested for unaccompanied children aged 12-17 years were also able to be provided in about 90% of cases, with the most common unmet need being for housing or accommodation related services.
For unaccompanied children, the older the child was, the less likely they were to be living with their parent or guardian immediately before seeking support. Also, fewer unaccompanied children went back to live with their parent(s) once they had left SAAP, than lived with parent(s) before entering the program. The majority (60%) of unaccompanied 16-17 year olds had left the education system.
People with children entering SAAP were less likely to be in the labour force and slightly more likely to have a government pension or benefit as their main source of income than people without children using the program.