A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) quantifies the level of demand for disability support services now and in the future, and shows that the number of people aged under 65 with a profound or severe limitation in basic daily activities is projected to increase to over 750,000 people by 2010.
The report, Current and future demand for specialist disability services, reports on how much unmet demand there is for accommodation and respite services, community access services and employment services, what factors affect demand, and how levels of demand are expected to change over coming years.
'Conservative estimates indicate that in 2005, there were 23,800 people aged 0 - 64 with unmet or under-met demand for accommodation and respite services,' said Dr Xingyan Wen of the Institute's Functioning and Disability Unit.
'In 2005, the unmet demand for community access services was estimated at 3,700 people, but this estimate does not include partially-met demand,' he said.
Based on projected ageing trends, the segments of the population likely to require disability services are projected to grow substantially in the next few years.
In addition to the obvious factors - the ageing of the population in general and of people with disabilities in particular - other factors that may contribute to an increase in future demand include:
- increases in the prevalence of some disabling long-term health conditions
- increases in need for assistance due to ageing service-users and the ageing of their carers
- trends towards community-based living arrangements for people with disabilities
- decreases in access to some mainstream housing options, and
- a projected fall in the number of informal carers relative to the number of people with a disability.
The report emphasises that disability services alone cannot meet all the needs of people with a disability. People with a disability, like the general population, rely on range of government-funded services to meet their various needs.
'People ageing with a disability may need complementary combinations of support from both the disability and aged care service sectors.
'This is of particular relevance to people ageing with an early onset disability and younger people with a disability living in residential aged care accommodation,' Dr Wen said.
The report was commissioned by the Disability Policy and Research Working Group to provide information on unmet demand for services provided under the Commonwealth, State and Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA).