Care and protection orders (CPOs) are legal orders or arrangements that place some responsibility for a child’s welfare with child protection authorities. They set up arrangements to provide support and assistance to vulnerable children and young people to protect them from abuse, neglect or other harm, or where their parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection .
Key findings in 2015–16
- 9,000 children and young people on a care and protection order (CPO) sought assistance from homelessness agencies across Australia in 2015–16; 3% of all people requesting assistance from specialist homelessness agencies.
- Fifty-eight per cent of clients on a CPO were children aged 0–9. Males were more likely than females to be in this age range (62% compared with 55%).
- Domestic and family violence was identified as the main reason for seeking assistance for over one-quarter (28%) of clients on a CPO.
- The most common care type arrangement for clients on a CPO was ‘parents’.
- While more likely to be homeless on presentation than the general SHS population, specialist homelessness service agencies were successful in improving housing outcomes for many of these clients. The largest improvement in housing situation was for CPO clients into public or community housing. Sixteen per cent were in public or community housing at the start of support and this increased to 31% by the end of support.
Improvements in the identification of SHS clients on a CPO have led to significantly better quality data in 2015–16, therefore improving reporting on these clients (see Technical information). For previous collection periods, those clients recorded as having a care type of either ‘parents’ or ‘other living arrangements’ were excluded from the CPO derivation. These care types are now included. Clients are now also identified as being on a CPO if they report being on a CPO in any support period during the collection period, rather than just the first. This means that analysis for these clients in 2015–16 is not directly comparable with previous years. Any comparisons with previously published data on clients on a CPO should therefore be made with caution.
Children on care and protection orders 2015–16
In 2015–16, almost 9,000 clients or 3% of specialist homelessness service clients were identified as a child on a care and protection order (aged 0–17 years) (National supplementary table CPO.1). Compared with the general SHS client population, clients on a CPO were:
- more likely to be homeless on presentation to an SHS agency (50% compared with 44%)
- more likely to receive accommodation (55% compared with 31%)
- less likely to have all case management goals achieved (18% compared with 23%).
Clients on a CPO also received more days of SHS support (86 days compared with 35 (median)) and more nights of accommodation (68 nights compared with 33 (median)) than the general SHS population (Table CPO.1).
Table CPO.1: Children (0–17 years) on care and protection orders: at a glance—2015–16
|Number of clients (proportion of all clients)
|Rate (per 10,000 population)
|Housing situation at the beginning of first support period (proportion of all clients)
|At risk of homelessness
|Length of support (median number of days)
|Average number of support periods per client
|Proportion receiving accommodation
|Median number of nights accommodated
|Proportion of a client group with a case management plan
|Achievement of all cases management goals (per cent)
- Rates are crude rates based on the Australian estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June of the reference year.
- The denominator for the proportion achieving all case management goals is the number of client groups with a case management plan. Denominator values for proportions are provided in the relevant National supplementary table.
- Due to changes in the reporting of children on a care and protection order in 2015–16, as detailed in the online technical information, data are not comparable with previous years.
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2015–16.
Characteristics of children on care and protection orders 2015–16
Of the 8,859 clients on a CPO in 2015–16:
1 in 2
were female (50%), similar to the rate of female 0–17 year olds in the general SHS population (51%).
Nearly 3 in 5
were aged 0–9 (58%). Males were more likely than females to be in this age range (62% compared with 55%).
were living with a sole parent when they sought assistance (52%). The next most common living arrangement on presentation to a SHS agency was ‘other family group’ (18%).
1 in 3
were Indigenous (34%), compared with 32% of general SHS clients aged 0–17.
2 in 3
accessed services in Major cities (66%) and just under 1 in 5 (18%) in Inner regional areas. This is similar to that of the general SHS population (63% and 21%, respectively).
of care type arrangements were with ‘parent(s)’ (56%).
Care arrangement type
- The most common type of care arrangement for clients on a CPO was parent(s) (56%).
- Sixty-six per cent of those living with their parent(s) on a CPO were aged 0–9. Unsurprisingly, 9 in 10 (88%) of those in ‘independent living’ were aged 15–17. Making up 21% of all clients on a CPO, 15–17 year olds were also over-represented in ‘residential care’ (72%) and ‘other living arrangements’ (54%).
- Female clients on a CPO were twice as likely as males to report their care arrangement as ‘independent living’ (67% compared with 33%). More males than females reported ‘family group home’ as their care arrangement (57% compared with 43%).
- The most common care type for Indigenous clients on a CPO was ‘parent(s)’ (49%), lower than for non-Indigenous clients (59%). Indigenous clients on a CPO were more likely than non-Indigenous clients to have care type arrangements of ‘relative(s)/kin who are reimbursed’ (13% compared with 8%) and ‘family group home’ (5% compared with 2%).
Reasons for seeking assistance
While clients can identify a number of reasons for seeking assistance, agencies also record the main reason for seeking assistance.
- Domestic and family violence was the most common main reason CPO clients sought assistance with over one-quarter (28%) of clients reporting this reason.
- Housing crisis was the next most common reason with 18% of clients.
Services needed and provided
Of the 8,859 clients on a CPO in 2015–16:
Nearly 7 in 10
clients on a care and protection order (68%) needed accommodation services, higher than the general SHS population (56%).
of all clients on a CPO needed short-term or emergency accommodation, compared with 38% of the general SHS population.
of clients on a CPO requested medium-term/transitional housing, higher than the general SHS population (27%) and these clients were almost twice as likely to be provided with this accommodation (61% of those who requested it compared with 34%, respectively).
Other general services most commonly needed by these clients were advocacy/liaison on behalf of client (62%), material aid/brokerage (44%), transport (39%) and assistance for domestic/family violence (36%). These services were needed by higher proportions of clients on a CPO than clients in the general SHS population (54%, 35%, 22% and 27%, respectively).
CPO clients were also more likely than the general SHS population to be identified as needing family/relationship assistance (34% compared with 18%), child protection services (26% compared with 5%), school liaison (18% compared with 5%) and health and medical services (18% compared with 10%).
For those clients on a care and protection order whose support had ended:
- Half (50%, or nearly 2,500 clients) were classified as homeless at the beginning of their support, with the majority (51%) living in short-term or emergency accommodation (Table CPO.4).
- Around 1 in 5 (19%) were ‘couch surfing’ at the beginning of their support (Figure CPO.1). This almost halved to 1 in 10 (10%) by the end of support.
- At the end of support, the proportion of these clients classified as homeless had decreased to 33%; almost 1,600 clients homeless.
- Private or other housing was the most common housing situation at the end of support, increasing 2 percentage points to 35%.
- The greatest change in housing situation was an almost two-fold increase in the proportion of CPO clients into public and community housing (31%, up from 16% at the beginning of support).
Figure CPO.1: Children on care and protection orders, by housing situation at beginning of support and end of support, 2015–16
- The SHSC classifies clients living with no shelter or improvised/ inadequate dwelling, short-term temporary accommodation, or in a house, townhouse, or flat with relatives (rent free) as homeless. Clients living in public or community housing (renter or rent free), private or other housing (renter or rent free), or in institutional settings are classified as housed.
- Proportions include only clients with closed support at the end of the reporting period.
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services 2015–16, National supplementary table CPO.1.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Child protection Australia 2014–15. Child welfare series no. 63. Cat. no. CWS 57. Canberra: AIHW.