Disability affects many people in the community at all stages of life. It impacts people in different ways and to varying extents, with some people with disability needing support. In response, Australian governments fund a range of services under the National Disability Agreement. These are termed 'disability support services' and are aimed at improving the lives of both people with disability and their carers, and ensuring that they have the opportunity to participate in the community. Data on this are collected in the Disability Services National Minimum Data Set.

Service users have a range of support needs 

rs (22%) accessed services across multiple service groups.There are five broad groups of services for which data are collected: accommodation support (received by 14% of service users), community support (45%), community access (19%), respite (12%), and employment (41%). Just over 1 in 5 service use

Commonly reported primary disabilities were intellectual (30%), psychiatric (20%) and physical (17%). Most service users needed some assistance in the activities of daily living (52%); the activities of independent living (60%); and in the activities of work, education and community living (57%).

Increasing use of services and more informal carers 

In 2010-11, 314,252 people used disability support services, an increase of 7% from 2009-10 and of 45% from 2005-06. The rate of service use has also increased, from an estimated 1 in 94 people in the general Australian population in 2005-06 to 1 in 71 in 2010-11.

The use of employment services, in particular, has increased-by 75% since 2005-06 in terms of the number of people using employment services; and from being received by 34% of service users in 2005-06 to 41% in 2010-11.

The number of service users with an informal carer has increased by 31% since 2005-06. In 2010-11, 44% of service users had an informal carer. In most cases (80%), that carer was a primary carer who provided help with one or more of the activities of daily living such as self-care, mobility or communication.

Increasing expenditure on most service groups, but average expenditure per service user decreasing 

In 2010-11, expenditure on disability support services was $6.2 billion, of which $5.8 billion was allocated for service delivery. Real expenditure on disability support services has increased in recent years-by 2% between 2009-10 and 2010-11 and by 36% since 2005-06. Community support showed the largest increase in expenditure (10% between 2009-10 and 2010-11, and 80% since 2005-06), followed by employment services (3% and 47%, respectively).

Average expenditure per service user has decreased for some service groups in recent years. In particular, average expenditure per service user on employment services has decreased by 16% since 2005-06 and by 5% between 2009-10 and 2010-11. Between 2009-10 and 2010-11, average expenditure per service user also fell by 4-6% for the other service groups, except for community support, which increased by just under 1%. Some possible explanations for the decreases in average expenditure include that service use is increasing faster than expenditure, or that there have been efficiency improvements in the delivery of services.