Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) People with disability in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 05 July 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). People with disability in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
People with disability in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 05 July 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. People with disability in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Jul. 5]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, People with disability in Australia, viewed 5 July 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/disability/people-with-disability-in-australia
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were active participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) at 31 March 2022
(41%) active NDIS participants are aged 14 and under
(or 1.7 million) of people with disability need assistance from formal providers
On this page:
People with disability who need support can use specialist disability services, mainstream services, and/or be supported by informal carers. They may also receive financial assistance to help with daily activities (see Income support for more information on financial assistance).
This section focuses on one part of this broader, and interacting, system of supports – specialist disability support services funded or provided by government.
Specialist disability support services are now largely provided through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Most, but not all, National Disability Agreement (NDA) services, and the people using them, have transitioned to the NDIS. For information on services provided under the NDA, please refer to the archived versions of this report.
In 2019–20, support was provided to people with disability under the NDIS and other disability-specific services. In that year, government expenditure on disability was $18.7 billion. This includes $16.0 billion provided to the NDIS; the remaining $2.7 billion in 2019–20 was for disability-specific services provided outside the NDIS (SCRGSP 2020, 2021).
This section provides information on:
What are specialist disability support services?
Specialist disability support services help people with disability participate fully in daily life. They may supplement other support a person receives, such as that provided by mainstream services, the community and/or informal carers.
Disability support services may include:
Specialist disability support services are primarily aimed at people aged under 65, but support is also available to eligible people aged 65 and over.
The NDIS is designed to provide Australians with permanent and significant disability with the reasonable and necessary support needed to participate in everyday life.
About the National Disability Insurance Scheme
The NDIS is a fundamental shift in the way Australians with significant and permanent disability access supports. It is founded in insurance principles to provide eligible Australians who have a permanent and significant disability, with the reasonable and necessary supports they need (NDIA 2020a).
The NDIS was introduced in trial sites in 2013, and has been progressively rolled out across Australia from July 2016. From 1 July 2020, the NDIS has been made available to all eligible Australians, no matter where they live (NDIA 2020b). The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) estimates that, by 30 June 2025, the NDIS will provide around 670,000 Australians (634,000 aged under 65) with funding for supports and services (NDIA 2021a). People with disability are directly funded under the NDIS, as distinct from the previous system of block funding to agencies and community organisations that provided disability support services under the National Disability Agreement (NDIA 2020a).
National Disability Insurance Agency
Data in this section are largely sourced from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). Any data not referenced on this page are sourced from Data tables for this report.
At 31 March 2022, there were around 519,000 active NDIS participants with approved plans (with an additional 11,200 children supported by the early childhood approach) (NDIA 2022).
Of active NDIS participants as at 31 March 2022:
See NDIS quarterly reports for the latest data.
How is remoteness defined?
The remoteness categories used in this section are based on the Modified Monash Model 2019 which classifies locations into 7 categories from major cities to very remote (NDIA 2022). The classifications are based on the ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard – Remoteness Areas framework and utilise Census data. For more information see Modified Monash Model.
At 31 December 2020, 85% (or 469,000) of applicants to the NDIS were ever eligible for access (NDIA 2021b).
What does ever eligible mean?
Ever eligible is a count of people who have ever gained access to the NDIS. It includes people who have now had their access ceased or revoked. Access can be ceased or revoked for a number of reasons including: death, no longer meeting the scheme’s eligibility criteria, or self-elected exit.
This section reports on variations in eligibility for NDIS supports across various population groups. While there may be multiple possible reasons behind these differences, this report does not attribute these differences to any particular reason, nor does it make any inferences about causation.
Eligibility varies by age and gender. At 31 December 2020, around half (52% or 245,000) of applicants who were ever eligible are aged 18 and under:
The majority of eligible applicants were males, although the proportion of females increased with age:
Figure NDIS.1: Eligibility of NDIS applicants, by age group and gender, as at 31 December 2020
Stacked column chart showing the proportion of NDIS applicants who are males and females that are ever eligible or ineligible by age groupings 0–6, 7–14, 15–18, 19–24 then 10-year age groupings from 25–34 to 55–64 then 65 and over. The chart shows 68% of ineligible applicants aged 0–6 are males compared to 37% of those aged 55–64.
Source data tables: NDIS (XLSX, 410 kB)
Eligibility does not vary substantially by whether the applicant lives in an urban or remote location; for example, of those aged 64 and under (where remoteness is known):
Eligibility does not vary by Indigenous status, however it does vary for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups (where CALD status is known):
Eligibility also varies by disability group; for example, of those aged 64 and under:
Figure NDIS.2: Eligibility of NDIS applicants aged 0–64, by disability group, as at 31 December 2020
Stacked bar chart showing the proportion of NDIS applicants aged 0–64 who are ever eligible or ineligible by 17 disability groups. The disability groups are listed from most applicants (autism) to least applicants (spinal cord injury). The chart shows, among the 5 disability groups with most applicants, 96% of applicants with autism are ever eligible compared to 46% with other physical disability.
Source data tables: NDIS (XLSX, 410 kB)
Differences in eligibility are also evident among disability groups by age group. For example:
Figure NDIS.3: Eligibility of NDIS applicants aged 0–64, by broad disability group and broad age group, as at 31 December 2020
Stacked column chart showing the proportion of NDIS applicants aged 0–64 with 5 broad disability groups that are ever eligible or ineligible by age groupings 0–14,
15–24, 25–64, and total. The chart shows 26% of ineligible applicants aged 0–14 have sensory or speech disability (including hearing impairment, visual impairment, and other sensory/speech disability). 59% of ineligible applicants aged 25–64 have physical or diverse disability (including acquired brain injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, stroke, other neurological, and other physical).
At 31 December 2020, 419,000 active participants aged under 65 received supports under the NDIS. Numbers of participants receiving different categories of supports varied by disability group (Figure NDIS.4), level of function, and access decision type.
Support class and category
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants choose and pay for supports and services out of an individually allocated budget based on their goals. Supports and services for participants fall under the following 3 budgets:
In this section, support class refers to these 3 budgets while support category refers to 15 broad categories of supports and services.
For more information, see Supports and services funded by the NDIS.
Access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Under the NDIS Act, a person meets the access criteria to the scheme upon satisfying either the Disability requirements (section 24) or Early intervention requirements (section 25):
For more information, see the NDIS Act.
For the 3 most prevalent support categories received by the active participants:
Numbers of participants receiving different supports also varied by Indigenous status (where Indigenous status is known):
Figure NDIS.4: NDIS participants aged 0–64, by disability group and support category, as at 31 December 2020
Bar chart showing the proportion of NDIS participants aged 0–64 receiving supports under different support categories, by 17 disability groups. The chart shows, for participants receiving support under the Core Supports category of ‘Consumables’, 31% of participants have autism, 18% have intellectual disability and 8.3% have psychosocial disability.
An estimated 40% (or 1.7 million) of people with disability living in households need assistance from formal providers. Most (86% or 1.4 million) people with disability who need formal assistance with at least one activity receive some support. For those receiving formal assistance, the providers are most often private commercial organisations (61% or 886,000) or government providers (46% or 667,000) (a person can receive support from more than one provider) (ABS 2019).
Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers
Data in this section are largely sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2018 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). The SDAC is the most detailed and comprehensive source of data on disability prevalence in Australia.
The SDAC considers that a person has disability if they have at least one of a list of limitations, restrictions or impairments, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least 6 months and restricts everyday activities.
The limitations are grouped into 10 activities associated with daily living – self-care, mobility, communication, cognitive or emotional tasks, health care, reading or writing tasks, transport, household chores, property maintenance, and meal preparation. The SDAC also identifies 2 other life areas in which people may experience restriction or difficulty as a result of disability – schooling and employment.
The severity of disability is defined by whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with 3 core activities – self-care, mobility, and communication – and is grouped for mild, moderate, severe, and profound limitation. People who always or sometimes need help with one or more core activities, have difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends, or can communicate more easily using sign language or other non-spoken forms of communication are referred to in this page as ‘people with severe or profound disability’.
The SDAC includes some information on the level of service people with disability receive from formal (or organised) service providers. These data are provided here for context and are not intended to be a direct evaluation of specialist service provision under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or National Disability Agreement (NDA). In particular:
Most people with disability receiving formal assistance were satisfied with the quality and range of services:
Not everyone with disability receives all the help they need from formal services. Common activities for which the need for formal assistance was unmet include:
The reasons given for not receiving any or more help from an organised service with at least one activity include:
Reasons for not receiving any or more help from an organised service with at least one activity differ by remoteness. Among people with disability aged 64 and under, with an unmet need for formal assistance:
NDIS outcomes framework
The NDIS outcomes framework questionnaires collect information on 8 life domains from participants, their families and their carers. The framework uses a lifespan approach to provide some measures of the medium- to long-term benefits to participants at different stages of life. This includes asking whether the NDIS has helped with various aspects of their life. For example, by 31 March 2022, for participants who had been in the NDIS for at least 2 years:
Data tables for this report.
National Disability Agreement
Information on the use of specialist services under the NDA was collected and reported by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in the Disability Services National Minimum Data Set (DS NMDS). From 1 July 2013, state and territory-based disability support services provided under the NDA were progressively transitioned to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This has meant that 2018–19 was the last year for which DS NMDS data were collected and reported.
For information on services provided under the NDA, please refer to the archived versions of this report, Disability services, and Disability Services National Minimum Data Set.
National Disability Insurance Scheme
Data on the NDIS is collected and reported by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) – an independent statutory agency whose role is to implement the NDIS. The NDIS website provides information about the scheme for people with disability, families and carers, services providers and the wider community. For the latest data on the NDIS see Data and insights and Quarterly reports.
ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers
Information on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) is available at ABS SDAC.
Use of disability services
Data on the use of disability services, including on met and unmet need for services, are available in the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services.
ABS (2019) Microdata: disability, ageing and carers, Australia, 2018, ABS cat. no. 4430.0.30.002, AIHW analysis of TableBuilder data, accessed 12 August 2021.
Australian Government (2013) Federal Register of Legislation – National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013, Australian Government.
NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) (2020a) NDIA 2019–20 annual report, NDIA, accessed 21 September 2021.
NDIA (2020b) Delivering the NDIS: roll-out complete across Australia as Christmas and Cocos Islands join world-leading scheme [media release], NDIA, Australian Government, accessed 21 September 2021.
NDIA (2021a) Annual financial sustainability report 2020–21, NDIA, accessed 21 September 2021.
NDIA (2021b) AIHW customised data request, NDIA, accessed 7 April 2022.
NDIA (2022) NDIS quarterly report to disability ministers for Q3 of Y9, 31 March 2022, NDIA, accessed 21 September 2021.
SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) (2020) Report on government services 2020, Productivity Commission, Australian Government.
SCRGSP (2021) Report on government services 2021, Productivity Commission, Australian Government.
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