Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 03 December 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-2017-18
Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 13 February 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-2017-18
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2022 Dec. 3]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-2017-18
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18, viewed 3 December 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-2017-18
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The 2015 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) estimates that almost 1 in 5 Australians (18.3% of the total population) have a disability. This estimate includes all those with any disability, ranging from mild to severe disabilities . The measure of disability in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) identifies those who always or sometimes need help or supervision with one or more core activities (self-care, mobility and communication) due to a long-term health condition or disability.
In 2017–18, 23,400 specialist homelessness services (SHS) clients reported one or more limitations with a core activity (self-care, mobility, and/or communication). Of these, 7,900 clients (or 3% of all SHS clients) reported that they always or sometimes needed assistance. It is this subgroup of people living with disability, those with severe or profound core activity limitation, who are described in this section. In this report, ‘severe or profound core activity limitation’ is sometimes abbreviated to ‘severe or profound disability’.
The analysis of the availability and appropriateness of homelessness services for this group of clients contributes to information about people with disability across a range of government services.
The SHSC disability questions are asked of all clients and are based on core activity limitations and whether the client has any need for assistance with these activities. It is important to note that data for clients with disability who require assistance may not be comparable across age groups due to differences in the interpretation of the SHSC disability questions. This issue mainly relates to young children, and therefore any comparisons between age groups should be made with caution.
Further details about measuring disability in the SHSC and the definition of a client with severe or profound core activity limitation are provided in Technical information.
In 2017–18, 23,400 SHS clients had a core activity limitation. Of these, 7,900 clients (or 3% of all SHS clients) answered that they ‘always/sometimes need help and/or supervision’ with self-care, mobility or communication (Supplementary table DIS.1). Of these clients with a severe or profound disability:
In 2017–18, clients with profound or severe disability:
Living with disability may not be the only challenge faced by this group of clients. Almost 3 in 4 (74% or nearly 4,500) clients with severe or profound disability aged 10 and over also reported experiencing additional vulnerabilities including mental health issues, problematic drug and/or alcohol use or domestic and family violence (compared with 62% of the total SHS population). Of those clients with severe or profound disability who did present with additional vulnerabilities (Table DIS.1):
Domestic and family violence
Mental health issue
Problematic drug and/or alcohol use
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2017–18.
It is important to note that changes over time should be made with caution due to changes in the interpretation of the disability questions (see Technical notes for more information).
Key trends identified over the previous 5 years of collection include:
Number of clients
Proportion of all clients
Rate (per 10,000 population)
Housing situation at the beginning of the first support period (proportion (per cent) 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 case management goals (per cent)
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2013–14 to 2017–18.
Almost 4 in 10 clients with severe or profound disability accessed SHS services in Victoria (39% or 3,200 clients). This was followed by New South Wales (24% or 2,000 clients), Queensland and South Australia (both 10% or around 800 clients) (Figure DIS.1).
In 2017–18, the Northern Territory had the highest rate of SHS clients with severe or profound disability (9.8 clients per 10,000 people), followed by Victoria (5.1 clients), while Queensland had the lowest rate (1.7 per 10,000 people) (Supplementary table DIS.4). Clients in Victoria received the most support periods on average (3.4 support periods per client), followed by Western Australia (2.3 support periods per client) and Tasmania (2.1 support periods per client).
In 2017–18, of clients aged 15 and over with severe or profound disability (over 4,700), 88% reported that their main source of income was a government payment, in particular:
A larger proportion of male clients with severe or profound disability (52%) reported that their main source of income was the Disability Support Pension, compared with females (47%). Males were also more likely to report the Newstart Allowance as their main source of income (22%), compared with females (17%).
Of the 5,700 clients with severe or profound disability aged 15 and over:
Similar to other SHS clients, most clients with severe or profound disability seek support from SHS agencies with a formal referral (67% or 5,300 clients). Both government and non-government agencies can make formal referrals including hospitals, family and child support agencies and mental health services. In 2017–18, referrals for clients with a severe or profound disability were most commonly made by:
An additional 1 in 10 (11% or over 800 clients) were referred by another agency (government or non-government).
The most common main reason this group of clients reported for seeking assistance was housing crisis (25%). Less than 1 in 5 (18%) reported the main reason they had sought assistance was for domestic and family violence, which was lower than the general SHS population (30%).
Clients with severe or profound core activity limitation were more likely to need some specific services than the general SHS client population; for example, mental health services (19% compared with 9%) and assistance to sustain housing tenure (45% compared with 33%). Considering housing needs of clients with a profound or severe disability in 2017–18:
Other services that were needed by SHS clients with severe or profound disability:
Upon presentation to SHS agency in 2017–18, 54% of clients with severe or profound disability were housed but at risk of homelessness (Figure DIS.3). Of these, 30% were in private or other housing, 15% were in public or community housing and 6% in institutional settings. The remaining 46% of clients were homeless at the start of SHS support including 11% sleeping rough, 20% in short-term accommodation and 14% couch surfing.
The housing situation at the start of support for clients with severe or profound disability was broadly similar to the total population of SHS clients.
The outcomes presented in this section examines the changes in clients’ housing situations from the start to end of support. Only clients who ceased receiving support by the end of the financial year are included in this section—meaning their support periods had closed and they did not have ongoing support at the end of the 2017–18 reporting period. However, it is important to note that a proportion of these clients may seek assistance from SHS agencies again in the future.
For clients with severe or profound disability (Figure DIS.4):
Of those clients who were housed but at risk of homelessness at the beginning of support (that is, living in either public or community housing (renter or rent-free), private or other housing (renter or rent-free), or in institutional settings) (Table DIS.3):
Of those clients who were homeless when they began SHS support; that is, living either with no shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling, short-term temporary accommodation or in a house, townhouse or flat with relatives (rent-free) (Table DIS.3):
Source: Specialist homelessness services 2017–18, National supplementary table DIS.7.
Education and employment status remained nearly unchanged following support. For example, there was little difference in the proportion of pre- and post-support clients who were unemployed (37% compared with 38%) or not in the labour force (59% compared with 58%).
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