Welfare expenditure reached $90 billion in 2005-06, up from $86 billion in 2004-05, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's latest expenditure report, Welfare Expenditure Australia 2005-06.
Mr John Goss, of the Institute's Expenditure and Economics Unit, said that at $90 billion, welfare expenditure is similar in scale to the nation's health expenditure ($87 billion in 2005-06)
'Welfare expenditure comprises cash payments and services specifically directed to older people, families and children, people with disabilities and other groups such as widows and migrants,' Mr Goss said.
'It excludes unemployment benefit payments and services, but includes payments and services such as the Family Tax Benefit, Maternity Allowance, the Age Pension, the Disability Support Pension, Support for Carers, residential care services and services for people with a disability.'
Of the $81 billion of welfare expenditure allocated to target groups, $34 billion was directed to older people, $27 billion for families and children, $17 billion for people with disabilities, and the remaining $3 billion for groups such as widows, migrants and refugees.
Over the last eight years (since 1998-99) annual welfare expenditure has risen by over $33 billion, with annual increases generally exceeding the inflation rate.
The Australian Government funded all cash benefits in 2005-06 ($61 billion).
While governments continue to be the major funders of welfare services, non-government community service organisations (NGCSOs) are major providers of welfare services. NGCSOs provided $20 billion worth out of $29 billion in welfare services in 2005-06.
State and territory government funding of welfare services averaged $421 per person, ranging from $358 in Queensland to $604 in the Northern Territory.