Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2016) Domestic & family violence & homelessness 2011–12 to 2013–14, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 06 July 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2016). Domestic & family violence & homelessness 2011–12 to 2013–14. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/domestic-family-violence-homelessness-2011-12-to-2013-14
Domestic & family violence & homelessness 2011–12 to 2013–14. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 03 February 2016, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/domestic-family-violence-homelessness-2011-12-to-2013-14
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Domestic & family violence & homelessness 2011–12 to 2013–14 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2016 [cited 2022 Jul. 6]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/domestic-family-violence-homelessness-2011-12-to-2013-14
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2016, Domestic & family violence & homelessness 2011–12 to 2013–14, viewed 6 July 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/domestic-family-violence-homelessness-2011-12-to-2013-14
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Specialist homelessness service agencies provide assistance to many clients experiencing domestic and family violence. Service use varies widely between those clients experiencing domestic and family violence and other clients, as well as between the different cohorts experiencing domestic and family violence.
Those who approach specialist homelessness services for assistance do so for a variety of reasons. While they all share the same basic needs (a lack of suitable housing, or being at risk of losing that housing), their characteristics and circumstances can differ significantly. A 2014 report Housing outcomes for groups vulnerable to homelessness: 1 July 2011 to 31 December 2013 by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that it can take considerable support by agencies to assist a person into stable housing. This can be more difficult when the personal circumstances of the individual are complex. Exiting or preventing homelessness can be very difficult for those experiencing domestic violence, young people leaving home because of family conflict, those suffering from a mental illness, or those who have problematic drug and alcohol use. These complexities can mean that, despite considerable support from specialist homelessness agencies, some clients remain in unstable or inadequate housing.
Those experiencing domestic and family violence may be more likely to cycle in and out of specialist homelessness services due to the difficulty in either staying away or leaving the family home altogether after incidents of violence . This difficulty is often financial in nature, but also relates to established relationships with family, friends and the community. Another factor resulting in a client returning to the family home may be that stays in refuges or emergency accommodation are often short and unlikely to result in longer term housing solutions, nor increased financial independence. Clients experiencing domestic and family violence would therefore be likely to be repeat service users. This analysis seeks to examine whether this is indeed the case. The use of three years of data provides an opportunity to more reliably identify those who are likely to be experiencing persistent and recurring homelessness, compared to a single year or snapshot analysis. This is important from a policy perspective, as entrenched homelessness requires a different policy response to temporary homelessness.
Agencies report data on the duration of support periods, or episodes of assistance provided to clients. Many clients had multiple support periods during the period July 2011 to June 2014. As the process of assisting some clients into stable housing may take considerable time and intensive caseworker support, the duration (in days) of this support provides a general indication of this effort. For this analysis, service use includes the number of client support periods, the total days of support received, and, where accommodated, nights of accommodation provided. Information on how support days and nights of accommodation are calculated can be found in the glossary.
Specialist homelessness services provided 428,400 support periods, totalling over 24 million days of support and over 9 million nights of accommodation to clients experiencing domestic and family violence from 2011-12 to 2013-14.
On average, domestic and family violence clients required a greater amount of support than non-domestic and family violence clients over the three years to 2013-14. Domestic and family violence clients received an average of 2.4 support periods, 136 days of support and 111 nights of accommodation from 2011-12 to 2013-14 (Table 1). In contrast, other clients required an average of 1.9 support periods, 92 days of support and 105 nights of accommodation over the three years to 2013-14.
Source: AIHW Specialist Homelessness Services Data Repository.
Note: 47% of family and domestic violence clients were accommodated over the collection period, compared with 32% of other SHS clients.
Additionally, domestic and family violence clients were more likely than other clients to receive more than 1 support period (47% compared with 34%) over the three years (Table 2). The disparity is clearest when examining clients who required 4 or more support periods over the 3 year collection period, with almost twice the proportion of domestic and family violence clients receiving 4 or more support periods compared with other clients (17% for domestic violence clients and 9% for other clients).
Over the period 2011-12 to 2013-14, domestic and family violence and other clients who did not have an open support period at the end of the three years were examined to determine how many days were reported between the start of their first and the end of their last support period/s. As such, this analysis examines the total time that clients who at any point indicated domestic and family violence issues, were in need of services. This provides an indication of the persistence of housing issues for these clients. For many it may also indicate ongoing violence; however, the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) does not have a measure of repeat incidents of violence.
When comparing domestic and family violence clients to those who did not indicate experiencing domestic and family violence, there is no significant difference in the span of service use, ranging between 26 and 300 days between first and last support periods. That is, both client groups have people with long term persisting homelessness issues.
However, the proportion of clients who reported between 0 and 25 days between first and last support periods was higher for those clients who did not indicate experiencing domestic and family violence (44%), compared with domestic and family violence clients (37%). Conversely, clients who reported greater than 300 days between first and last support periods were more likely to be domestic and family violence clients (24%), than other clients (17%) (Figure 1). Among the reasons for this would be lack of appropriate housing alternatives, ongoing complex issues surrounding clients affected by domestic and family violence, requiring support over longer periods of time, and potentially, ongoing issues with violence.
Overall, it is evident that finding satisfactory housing outcomes is not easy for many domestic and family violence clients; 43% of these clients were still being supported, or had sought further assistance, more than 100 days after first seeking assistance in the period (compared with 34% of other clients).
Indigenous women appear to access specialist homelessness services over a greater span of time than other domestic and family violence clients. Almost 2 in 5 Indigenous women (38%) accessed services over greater than 300 days, compared with 24% of clients overall. This may indicate that Indigenous women are not getting all their needs around housing stability addressed or were supported over an extended time period in an attempt to do so. Older women, on the other hand, were the least likely of all other domestic and family violence cohorts to persist in service use over long periods of time, with only 13% supported over greater than 300 days after their first support period. Almost two-thirds of these older women presenting to services were living in private rental or social housing, and they had the lowest level of need identified for drug and alcohol services, potentially indicating higher levels of housing stability and a lower need for support over an extended period.
There were three groups of clients within the domestic and family violence population who required a higher number of support periods and days of support, on average, than the overall domestic and family violence group. They were:
The relatively high average number of support periods for Indigenous women is greater also than for non-Indigenous women seeking assistance for domestic violence, who over the three years to 2013-14, had an average of 3.4 support periods per client (Table 3).
Despite requiring the greatest average number of support periods, Indigenous women experiencing domestic and family violence who needed accommodation received the lowest average number of accommodation nights (77 nights) of all the domestic and family violence cohorts. This trend is also reflected in the services requested by Indigenous women, with just over 7 out of 10 (72%) requesting short term accommodation. Non-Indigenous women were less likely to request short term accommodation, with just over 4 in 10 (41%) identifying this as a need.
Women from non-English speaking backgrounds, young women presenting alone and males received the highest average number of nights of accommodation out of the overall domestic and family violence population (149 nights, 129 nights and 122 nights, respectively). This correlates with what we know about the precarious housing circumstances of young women presenting alone and men upon presentation, with both these groups more likely to be couch surfing (see Housing outcomes for further information).
Older women received fewer support periods (1.8) and days of support (73), on average, from specialist homelessness services than any other cohort experiencing domestic and family violence.
Note: Groups are not mutually exclusive, clients may belong to more than 1 group.
This analysis suggests that individuals experiencing domestic and family violence require more support from specialist homelessness services than other clients, and there is evidence to suggest that they cycle in and out of homelessness services at a higher rate than other clients. Domestic and family violence clients received, on average, a higher number of support periods, days of support and nights of accommodation than other SHS clients. Domestic and family violence clients were also almost twice as likely to receive 4 or more support periods from 2011-12 to 2013-14 than other clients (17% compared with 9%). Spinney  suggests that there are many possible reasons for the repeat use of homelessness services by these clients, including:
While it appears that domestic and family violence can lead to precarious housing situations and therefore higher specialist homelessness service use, there are groups within the domestic and family violence population that are particularly impacted. Across all groups examined in the family and domestic violence cohort, Indigenous women, young women presenting alone and men were the most likely to be repeat service users. These groups appear to have more difficulty accessing stable housing, despite support from specialist homelessness agencies.
Indigenous women received 3.4 support periods, on average, over the three year reporting period. These results support research that suggests Indigenous women may be more likely to return to the family home potentially using homelessness services as respite from an abusive partner (Tually, Faulkner, Cutler & Slatter 2008). A lack of available culturally appropriate services in remote locations may also be a contributing factor. Additionally, Indigenous women were the least likely of all domestic and family violence groups examined to be employed, with only 8% reporting having any form of employment, indicating a lack of financial resources available to access long term, stable housing.
On average, young women presenting alone accessed 3.0 support periods per client from 2011-12 and 2013-14. The higher rates of service use amongst these clients may be indicative of young women having less established financial resources and the priorities of specialist homelessness services to find longer-term solutions where children are involved. These young women were also more likely than other groups to be couch surfing when they first accessed services, indicating a precarious housing situation.
A male's experience of domestic and family violence and homelessness is likely to be different from a woman's experience. While women are most likely to be the victims of domestic violence , and this is often carried out by their male partners, it is important to note that there are several different types of violence that may occur. For example, children may be violent toward parents or siblings and same sex couples may also experience violence in the home. As current perpetrators of domestic and family violence who may be receiving assistance from a homelessness agency are not identifiable in the data, we are not inferring whether the men examined here are a victim or perpetrator, but rather examining the circumstances under which they seek help. Males experiencing domestic and family violence received 3.4 support periods, on average, over the three years to 2013-14. This may be a reflection of the additional comorbidities present in this population, with males reporting the highest rates of both mental health issues and substance use issues out of all of the domestic and family violence cohorts (47% and 35% of males, respectively). These additional comorbidities can make accessing and maintaining stable housing difficult. In addition, services targeted at single men may be more likely to prioritise men that are sleeping rough or who have complex needs over those that leave accommodation following an abusive episode.
Young women presenting alone, Indigenous women and males were also more likely than the other domestic and family violence groups examined to be living with no tenure at the end of the 3 years examined. Males and Indigenous women were also more likely than other domestic and family violence clients to be living without shelter or sleeping rough. See Are housing outcomes for domestic and family violence clients improved over the long term? for further information.
Additionally, when data on unmet requests for services are interrogated, young women alone and males have the most unmet requests for services out of the domestic and family violence cohorts examined. Young women presenting alone were the least likely of all domestic violence cohorts to have requests for 'long term accommodation', 'assistance to sustain housing tenure', 'mental health services' and 'drug/alcohol services' provided by specialist homelessness services. Similarly, males were the least likely to have requests for 'family services', 'disability services' and 'domestic violence services' met. Young women presenting alone and men were equally least likely to be provided with 'short term accommodation' or 'legal/financial services', with 16% of all requests for 'short term accommodation' not met and 18% of requests for 'legal/financial services' neither provided nor referred. For further information, see What services do domestic and family violence clients need and what are they not receiving?. Combined, these data indicate that young women presenting alone and men are the most overlooked when it comes to service provision. This could be a result of more 'in need' groups, such as women with children and older women, receiving priority to obtain these services.
Older women were the least likely to be repeat service users across all of the groups examined in the domestic and family violence cohort, with an average of 1.8 support periods and 73 days of support over the three years to 2013-14. In contrast to the males in this study, older women were the least likely of all the domestic and family violence cohorts examined to report a mental health issue (21%) and a very close second to being the least likely to report substance use issues (4%) of all domestic and family violence cohorts. Only women from a non-English speaking background were less likely to report an issue with substance abuse (3%). These lower rates of comorbidities may indicate better prospects of maintaining housing, and therefore requiring fewer repeat support periods.
When examining persistence of service use over the 3 years examined, more than half of domestic and family violence clients appeared to have their issues resolved within 100 days (57%, or around 90,000). However, a further 1 in 4 clients (24%) accessed services for longer than 300 days, a higher proportion than those who did not indicate experiencing domestic and family violence (17%). This seems to suggest that the complexity of domestic and family violence situations require support spanning longer periods of time. Repeat episodes of domestic and family violence may also be driving this trend.
Of the cohorts examined within the overall domestic and family violence population, Indigenous women were the most persistent in their service use, with almost 40% receiving support services spanning greater than 300 days during the 3 years examined. This suggests that for groups with lower levels of housing stability on presentation, a greater number of support periods and high levels of need for short term and emergency accommodation, as well as an increased level of service persistence, is observed. The data in this area present an exciting opportunity for further research.
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