Clients, services and outcomes

Specialist homelessness agencies provide a range of services to assist those who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness. These services range from immediate crisis accommodation to general support and assistance. Characteristics of all clients assisted by specialist homelessness services (SHS) in 2017–18 are described below, including their needs for assistance and the services they received, and key trends for the 5 years from 2013–14 to 2017–18.

Key findings in 2017–18

  • In 2017–18, almost 288,800 clients sought assistance from SHS agencies, equating to 117.4 clients per 10,000 population.
  • Upon first presentation, most clients seeking assistance were housed but at risk of homelessness (57%); of these, most were living in private or other housing (62% or 89,000) or public or community housing at the time (24% or 34,000).
  • A high proportion of clients at risk of homelessness had experienced domestic and family violence (41%).
  • More than half (54%) had received SHS assistance at some point in the previous 5 years.
  • Less than 1 in 3 clients (29%) received accommodation in 2017–18 and the median length of accommodation was 32 nights.
  • Four in 10 clients were homeless on presentation to a SHS agency. Of these, agencies assisted about 38% into housing, most into private or other housing (about 15,500) and a further 10,500 into public or community housing.
  • SHS agencies assisted more than 8 in 10 clients who were in private or other housing (84% or 55,800 clients) and public or community housing (85% or 21,400 clients) at the beginning of support to maintain their tenancy at the end of support.
  • The average amount of financial assistance provided totalled $794 per client, up from $640 in 2016–17 (not adjusted for inflation).

Clients: 2013–14 to 2017–18

The estimated number of clients assisted by specialised homelessness agencies increased from 254,000 in 2013–14 to 288,800 in 2017–18; an average annual increase of 3.3%. The rate of SHS clients increased from 110 clients per 10,000 population in 2013–14 to 117 clients in 2017–18 (Table CLIENTS.1).

It is important to note that Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) data provide a measure of service response. Increases in client numbers reflect an increase in agency engagement with individuals which may be due to an increase in availability and accessibility of services or the utilisation of these services, not necessarily a change in the underlying level of homelessness in Australia.

The characteristics of clients, the main reason for seeking support, and the services provided to clients, have remained relatively stable over the past 5 years (Table CLIENTS.1). There have, however, been some notable changes:

  • Clients were supported for longer in 2017–18; the median number of days a client was supported increased from 33 days in 2013–14 to 39 days in 2017–18, an average annual growth of 4.3% each year.
  • More females than males presented to agencies homeless in 2017–18; the number of females presenting homeless in 2017–18 (57,000) has overtaken the number of males (52,100), up from 41,900 for females and 41,100 for males in 2013–14.
  • Clients aged over 45 are increasing; between 2013–14 and 2017–18, there has been an increase each year in the proportion of clients aged over 45 years from 18% (or nearly 46,800 clients) in 2013–14 to 21% (or 59,000 clients) in 2017–18.
  • Clients aged 65 and over are a growing group presenting to SHS for assistance; the number of clients aged 65 and over increased from just over 6,000 (2% of the SHS population) in 2013–14 to over 8,500 in 2017–18 (3% of the SHS population).
  • Clients at risk of homelessness comprise the majority of clients approaching SHS; clients housed but at risk of homelessness (57% or 143,200 clients in 2017–18) remain the majority of clients seeking assistance from specialist homelessness services.
  • Clients remaining homeless following support are declining; agencies have assisted an increased proportion of clients who began support homeless into housing. There has been a 6% decline in the proportion of these clients ending support homeless over the past 5 years, down from 68% in 2013–14.
  • Housing options for SHS clients presenting homeless are changing; 5 years ago, similar numbers of these clients were housed in either public or community housing, or private or other housing at the end of support (7,100 and 8,800 respectively). In 2017–18, the number of clients in this group assisted into housing has grown 1.6 fold to 26,000. Six in 10 (or more than 15,500) were housed in private or other housing.
  • The proportion of clients having achieved no case management goals at the end of support has remained steady since 2013–14 at about 6%. 

46% of SHS clients in 2017–18 were first time clients (since the collection began in 2011–12).

24.7 million support days were provided in 2017–18, a 1.2 million increase since 2016–17.

Table CLIENTS.1: SHS clients: at a glance—2013–14 to 2017–18

 

2013–14

2014–15

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

Number of clients

254,001

255,657

279,196

288,273

288,795

Rate (per 10,000 population)

109.7

108.8

117.1

119.1

117.4

Housing situation at the beginning of the first support period (proportion (per cent) of all clients)

Homeless

42

43

44

44

43

At risk of homelessness

58

57

56

56

57

Total days of support (millions)

20.6

19.7

22.2

23.4

24.7

Length of support
(median number of days)

33

33

35

37

39

Proportion receiving accommodation

34

33

31

30

29

Total nights of accommodation (millions)

7.0

6.6

7.0

6.9

6.9

Median number of nights accommodated

35

34

33

33

32

Achievement of all case management goals (per cent)

24

26

23

23

24

Notes

  1. Rates are crude rates based on the Australian estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June of the reference year. Minor adjustments in rates may occur between publications reflecting revision of the estimated resident population by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  2. The denominator for the proportion achieving all case management goals is the number of client groups with a case management plan (Supplementary table CLIENTS.26). Denominator values for proportions are provided in the relevant National supplementary table.
  3. Data for 2013–14 to 2016–17 have been adjusted for non-response. Due to improvements in the rates of agency participation and SLK validity, 2017–18 data are not weighted. The removal of weighting does not constitute a break in time series and weighted data from 2013–14 to 2016–17 are comparable with unweighted data for 2017–18. For further information, please refer to the Technical notes.

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2013–14 to 2017–18.

Clients, services and outcomes in 2017–18

Support periods

Data collected by specialist homelessness agencies are based on support periods or episodes of assistance provided to clients (see Technical notes for further information). Clients may have had more than 1 support period in 2017–18, either with the same agency at different times or with different agencies.

  • In 2017–18, clients assisted by homelessness agencies had 512,700 support periods. The number of support periods has increased by an average annual growth of 4.6% each year since 2013–14 (Supplementary table CLIENTS.19 and Historical table 1).
  • Around two-thirds of clients in 2017–18 had only 1 support period (66%) while 1 in 5 (19%) had 2 support periods, 7% had 3 periods and 8% had 4 or more. The average number of support periods per client is consistent with 2016–17 (1.8 support periods per client) (Supplementary table CLIENTS.18).
  • The majority of support periods were opened and closed within 2017–18 (76% or under 390,000). An additional 12% of support periods opened during the year and remained open on 30 June 2018. Just 1.8% remained open throughout the 2017–18 reporting period (Figure CLIENTS.1).

Figure CLIENTS.1: Support periods, by indicative duration over the reporting period, 2017–18

Figure CLIENTS.1 Support periods, by indicative duration over the reporting period, 2017–18. The image shows collection periods from 2016–17 to 2018–19. Bars indicate the proportion of support periods opened in one reporting period and closed in the same or the subsequent period. Arrows indicate ongoing support, opening either in 2016–17 or 2017–18 and remaining open into 2018–19. Most support periods began and ended in 2017–18 (76%25); 12%25 remained opened. Just 1.8%25 of support periods that opened in 2016–17 remained open the entire reporting period.

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2017–18, National supplementary table CLIENTS.19

Number of days clients received support

  • In 2017–18, the median number of support days for all clients was 39, while clients were supported for an average of 84 days in total, either as consecutive days or over multiple support periods.
  • In 2017–18, males (41 days) and females (39 days) received a similar length of support.
  • The needs of some clients can be met relatively quickly but clients with more complex issues needed more support. Three in 10 clients (30% or about 85,100) received between 6 and 45 days of support during 2017–18, while 24% received support for up to 5 days. Fifteen per cent received over 180 days of support; the same proportion received support for 91–180 days (15%).

Reasons that support ended

  • Around half (56%) of support periods ended in 2017–18 because the client’s immediate needs were met or case management goals were achieved. 
  • About one-quarter (23%) of support periods ended because the client no longer requested assistance; that is, a client may have decided that they no longer require assistance or they may have moved from the state/territory or region.
  • A further 12% of support periods closed because the client was referred to another specialist homelessness agency and 13% closed because contact was lost with the client (Figure CLIENTS.2).

Figure CLIENTS.2 Clients by reason support period ended (top 6), 2017–18. The horizontal bar graph shows that the top 6 reasons captured the vast majority of reasons clients’ ended support. Over half of clients (56%25) ended support because their immediate needs were met or case management goals were achieved. Another 23%25 of clients ended support because they no longer requested assistance. Over 1 in 10 (13%25) support periods ended because contact was lost with the client and another 12%25 because they were referred to another homelessness agency.

Characteristics of clients

In 2017–18, specialist homelessness agencies provided assistance to an estimated 288,800 clients, equivalent to 1 in 85 people in the Australian population (Table CLIENTS.1).

Age and sex

Figure CLIENTS.3 illustrates the age and sex distribution of SHS clients in 2017–18:

  • The majority of clients were female (61% or nearly 176,000).
  • The overall rate of service use was higher for females; 1 in 71 females in the Australian population received specialist homelessness services compared with 1 in 108 males.
  • Nearly 3 in 10 clients were aged under 18 (29% or over 83,000).
  • 1 in 6 were children under the age of 10 (17% or more than 47,700 clients).
  • Among adult clients, the largest age group was those aged 25–34, accounting for 1 in 5 clients (19%), most of whom were female.
  • Adults aged 35–44 was the most common age group for males (16%) while for adult females, the most common age group was 25–34 (22%).

Figure CLIENTS.3 Clients by age and sex, 2017–18. The horizontal population pyramid shows the marked differences between the age profiles of male and female SHS clients. The highest numbers of male clients were aged between 0 and 9 years (over 24,500) while females aged 25–34 were the age group with highest number (nearly 38,000).

Indigenous status

In 2017–18, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continued to be over-represented among SHS clients with one-quarter of clients (25% or almost 65,200) who provided information on their Indigenous status identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Nationally, this equates to 803 Indigenous clients per 10,000 Indigenous population compared with a rate of 86 for non-Indigenous clients.

Further information about Indigenous clients can be found in Indigenous clients.

State and territory of clients

The largest number of clients accessed services in Victoria (116,900), followed by New South Wales (71,600) and Queensland (41,100) (Supplementary table CLIENTS.2).

  • Overall, half of clients in 2017–18 had received services before; the proportion of returning clients varied across jurisdictions with South Australia and Tasmania reporting the highest proportion (both at 63%). New South Wales reported the lowest proportion of returning clients (51%).
  • More days of support were provided during 2017–18; nationally, the total number of support days increased by more than 1.2 million days between 2016–17 and 2017–18, to over 24.6 million days in 2017–18. Victoria was responsible for the major share of the increase in support days (an increase of over 1 million days), and reported the greatest change, up 14% since the previous reporting period. 
  • Females had higher rates of service use than males across all states and territories; the Northern Territory had the most pronounced difference between males and females where 500 per 10,000 females received services compared with 261 per 10,000 males (Supplementary table CLIENTS.2).
  • The Northern Territory had the highest rate of clients; the highest rate of SHS clients was in the Northern Territory where there were 377 clients per 10,000 population, followed by Victoria (185) and Tasmania (125) (Figure CLIENTS.4).
  • New South Wales had the largest increase in the rate of clients accessing services since 2013–14, an average annual growth of 7% each year.

Figure CLIENTS.4 Client service use per 10,000 population, by state and territory, 2017–18. The bar graph shows the wide range of specialist homelessness service use rates across jurisdictions. The Northern Territory had the highest rate at 377.3 per 10,000 population and Queensland had the lowest service use rate at 83.4 per 10,000. The national rate of service use was 117.4 per 10,000 population.

Country of birth

  • Most clients of specialist homelessness agencies were born in Australia; over 8 in 10 clients (86% or 208,500) were born in Australia (Supplementary table CLIENTS.3). This proportion is higher than the general Australian population, of whom 71% are born in Australia [2].
  • Clients born overseas were most commonly from New Zealand; of those clients who reported their country of birth and were born overseas, the most common country of birth was New Zealand (2%) (Supplementary table CLIENTS.4). Over half of the clients (54%) who were born overseas had arrived in Australia prior to 2008 (Supplementary table CLIENTS.5).
  • The majority of clients who were born overseas lived in Major cities (86% or nearly 29,800).

Living arrangements

  • More than one-third of clients were single parents; the most common living arrangement reported by clients was lone parent with 1 or more children (35% or around 89,500), followed by lone persons (30% or around 76,800) and couples with a child or children (13% or around 32,300) (Figure CLIENTS.5).
  • 7 in 10 single parents were female; female clients were more likely than male clients to be living as a single parent with a child or children (70% female) while males were more likely than females to be living alone (55% male).

Figure CLIENTS.5 Clients, by living arrangement, 2017–18. The stacked vertical bar graph shows the proportion of male and female clients by their usual living arrangement captured at the first support period. The most common living arrangement of SHS clients was either one parent households with 1 or more children (35%25), with more than twice as many females than males, or lone person households (30%25), with 1.2 times more males than females.

Housing situation

  • Almost 6 in 10 clients were at risk, rather than homeless on first presentation. Among those whose housing status was known at the beginning of their first support period in 2017–18 (87% of all clients), 43% (more than 109,200 clients) were homeless and 57% (more than 143,200 clients) were at risk of homelessness (Figure CLIENTS.6).
  • Of those clients at risk of homelessness on first presentation, the most common housing situation was living in private or other housing; around 1 in 3 clients (31% or nearly 89,000) were living in private or other housing (renter, rent-free, or owner) when presenting to agencies for assistance.
  • Over 1 in 5 ‘rough sleepers’ were living in their cars; of those clients who first presented to an agency homeless and reporting no shelter/improvised dwelling (nearly 23,900 clients), 46% were sleeping in no dwelling, either on the street, in a park or out in the open and a further 22% were sleeping in a car.

Figure CLIENTS.6 Clients by housing situation at the beginning of support, 2017–18. The stacked vertical bar graph shows proportions of male and female clients by the 6 housing situations captured in the SHSC. For those clients who were homeless, similar proportions were in either short-term or emergency accommodation, or couch surfing or no tenure (both 14%25). For those clients housed, but at risk of homelessness, most were in private or other housing (31%25) when they sought homelessness services, with nearly twice as many female clients than male clients in this housing situation.

Source of referral

  • Two-thirds of clients were formally referred to the agency; in 2017–18, over 184,800 clients (64%) were formally referred to a specialist homelessness agency.
  • The most common referral sources were another specialist homelessness agency or outreach worker (13%), other agency (government or non-government) (11%) or by the police (10%) (Figure CLIENTS.7).
  • Police referrals to SHS agencies were more likely to be for females than males; of all referrals from the police, 88% were for females and 12% for males.

Figure CLIENTS.7 Clients by source of referral (top 6), 2017–18. The stacked vertical bar graph shows the proportion of male and female clients by the most common referral sources. Referral by specialist homelessness agencies or other agencies (govt or non-govt) were the most common sources, 13%25 and 11%25, respectively. The only referral where the proportion of male and female clients was not similar was referral by police; females were almost 8 times more likely to be referred by the police than male clients.

Main source of income

  • Income support was high among SHS clients; a high proportion of clients aged 15 and over (78%) were receiving some form of government payment as their main income source at the time they sought support in 2017–18. The most common government payments were Newstart Allowance (29% or about 54,000 clients), Parenting Payment (18% or more than 33,300) and Disability Support Pension (16% or more than 29,500). 
  • Less than 1 in 10 clients reported earning income from employment; a total of 8% reported income from employment and 9% of clients reported having no income.

Education

  • Overall, more than half of young people were enrolled in education: Of those whose educational status was known, over half of young people aged 5–24 (54% or over 46,600) were enrolled in education in 2017–18 (Supplementary table CLIENTS.11). 
  • Over 8 in 10 clients aged 5–14 were enrolled in school. 13% of clients aged 5–14 (about 4,300) were not enrolled in education.  
  • Around one-third of young people were neither in education nor employment; 33% of clients aged 15–24 were not in some form of education or employment (around 19,400 clients).

Labour force

  • Two in 5 clients were not in the labour force; almost 73,700 (40%) clients were not in the labour force in 2017–18 (Figure CLIENTS.8). 
  • Almost half the clients aged 15 and over were unemployed; over 88,200 (48%) clients aged 15 or over were unemployed at the beginning of support.
  • Males were more likely to be unemployed than females; over half of male clients were unemployed (55%) compared with 44% of female clients.
  • Most employed clients work part-time; 12% of clients were employed and of these, around 3 in 5 (61%) were employed on a part-time basis.

Figure CLIENTS.8 Clients aged 15 and over, by labour force status at the beginning of support, 2017–18. The stacked vertical bar graph shows the proportion of male and female clients who were employed, unemployed or not in the labour force at the beginning of their support. Of those clients employed, there was a higher proportion of females employed either full-time or part-time. There was also a higher proportion of female clients not in the labour force. The greatest proportion of clients were unemployed.

Clients’ needs for assistance and services provided

The SHSC includes information about clients’ needs for services from 2 perspectives:

  • The client’s reasons for seeking assistance are captured at the start of support—both the main reason for seeking support and all reasons for seeking support are collected.
  • The agency worker’s assessment of the client’s needs—this information is captured when clients first present for assistance and each month while a client is still in contact with the agency.

Technical notes and Glossary provide more information about how clients’ needs for assistance are captured in the SHSC.

Services provided to clients range from the direct provision of accommodation, such as a bed in a shelter, to specialised services such as counselling and legal support. These services are generally either provided to the client directly by the agency or the client is referred to another service. Unmet demand provides further information about clients’ needs that went unmet.

Reasons for seeking assistance

SHS clients can identify a number of reasons for seeking assistance, reflecting the range of situations that contribute to housing instability (Figure CLIENTS.9):

  • Accommodation issues were present for over half of all clients; 53% of clients (or around 152,600 clients) identified accommodation as a reason for seeking assistance, similar to previous years.
  • Almost 2 in 5 were experiencing a housing crisis; ‘housing crisis’ was identified by 39% of clients as a reason for seeking assistance.
  • A similar proportion were experiencing financial difficulties; ‘financial difficulties’ was identified by 39% of clients as a reason for seeking assistance.
  • Over 6 in 10 clients were affected by housing affordability stress: 65% of clients identified housing affordability stress and/or financial difficulties as a reason for seeking assistance.
  • Interpersonal and relationship issues, including family and domestic violence, affected over half of clients; 53% of all SHS clients (about 153,400) identified interpersonal relationships as a reason for seeking support. Within this group, domestic and family violence and/or relationship/family breakdown were identified for 60% of clients. 

Figure CLIENTS.9 Clients by all reasons for seeking assistance (top 6), 2017–18. The stacked vertical bar graph shows the most common reasons for seeking assistance for male and female clients. Domestic and family violence was the most common reason for seeking assistance (39%25). It also showed the greatest divergence in proportions with females reporting this reason about 4 times more often than males. Housing crisis and financial difficulties were the two other most common reasons and similar proportions of males and females reported these.

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 for seeking assistance; domestic and family violence was identified as the main reason for seeking assistance (Figure CLIENTS.10) for around 1 in 3 clients (30% or about 85,000). For more information, see Clients experiencing domestic and family violence.
  • Around 1 in 5 identified ‘housing crisis’ as the main reason for seeking assistance; housing crisis was reported by 21% of clients as the main reason for seeking assistance.

Figure CLIENTS.10 Clients by main reason for seeking assistance (top 6), 2017–18. A client indicates one main reason for seeking assistance and these data are illustrated in a stacked vertical bar graph showing the proportions of male and female clients. The highest proportion of clients reported domestic and family violence (30%25) with females 4 times more likely than males to report this as the main reason. Housing crisis was the next most common at 21%25 and similar proportions of males and females indicated this.

General support and assistance

Some types of assistance provided by SHS agencies can be described as ‘general support and assistance’, as opposed to more specialised services. These include advice and information, material aid, meals and living skills.

  • Clients continue to most commonly need advice and information; of all assistance needed by clients, advice and information continued to be the most common, identified as a need for 78% of clients (over 224,800) in 2017–18. The next most common was advocacy and liaison, needed by 54% of clients (more than 155,400), and 36% of clients (around 103,500) needed material aid/brokerage (Figure CLIENTS.11).
  • Services almost always provided the required advice and information; advice/information and advocacy/liaison services were provided directly by the agency for almost all clients who needed them. This differs from some specialised services, such as legal information and training or employment assistance for which clients were more often referred to another agency.
  • Requests for assistance for domestic and family violence rose; in 2017–18, there were about 7,800 more requests (9% increase) for assistance with domestic and family violence, family/relationship assistance and assistance for trauma than in the previous year.
  • Requests for accommodation also rose; there were over 3,600 more requests for accommodation services compared with 2016–17, a 1% rise.

Figure CLIENTS.11 Clients, by most needed general services and service provision status (top 10), 2017–18. The stacked horizontal bar graph shows advice and information was the most needed service with nearly 225,000 clients needing this and of those 98%25 were provided it. Of the top 10 general services needed, material aid and brokerage was the most likely to be referred (6%25 of those needing the service) and the service with the highest proportion of needs neither provided nor referred was family and relationship assistance (14%25).

Housing and accommodation services

Housing and accommodation services provided by agencies include:

  • short-term or emergency accommodation
  • medium-term/transitional housing
  • long-term housing
  • assistance to sustain tenancy or prevent tenancy failure or eviction
  • assistance to prevent foreclosures or for mortgage arrears.

In 2017–18, 56% of SHS clients identified a need for accommodation services. Of these nearly 163,000 clients:

  • 84,000 (52%) were provided with accommodation by the agency
  • 25,000 (16%) were referred to another agency for accommodation provision
  • 53,000 (33%) were neither provided with assistance nor referred. These clients are further described in Unmet demand.

Assistance to sustain tenancy/prevent eviction was needed by 33% of clients at some stage during their support in 2017–18, the same proportion as the previous year. This group includes those who were still housed when they approached a SHS agency and were supported to remain in that housing. It also includes those who identified a need for accommodation, were assisted to secure new housing and then supported to sustain that housing:

  • There has been, on average, a 4% annual growth in the number of clients needing assistance to sustain tenancy each year since 2013–14.
  • Most clients (76,900 clients, or about 81% of those who needed it) received assistance to sustain housing directly from the specialist homelessness agency.

Specialised services

Specialised services refer to those services that require specific knowledge or skills and are usually undertaken by someone with qualifications to provide the particular service:

  • Health service needs are often referred by agencies; health/medical services were identified as needed by 1 in 10 clients (or just over 28,100) and were one of the services most often referred (23%) (Figure CLIENTS.12).
  • There has been little change in the most common specialised services needed and provided over the past 5 years; for example, health/medical services, mental health services and specialist counselling remain the most commonly needed services.

Figure CLIENTS.12 Clients by most needed specialised services and service provision status (top 10), 2017–18. The stacked horizontal bar graph shows that health and medical services was the most needed specialised service with just over 28,100 clients needing the service; it was also the most likely to be referred (6,500 clients). Mental health services were the next most needed service (almost 23,000) with one third (33%25) neither provided nor referred. These examples emphasise the diversity and capacity of the different agency service models.

Financial assistance

$52.9 million in financial assistance was provided to clients in 2017–18.

Around $52.9 million in financial assistance was provided to clients in 2017–18 (Figure CLIENTS.13), a 34% increase from the $39.5 million provided in 2016–17 (not adjusted for inflation); this represents an average provision of $794 per client requesting financial assistance, an increase from $640 in 2016–17 (unadjusted for inflation).

Over half of the financial assistance was used to assist clients with housing in 2017–18:

  • Around $26.4 million (50%) of the financial assistance was used to assist clients to establish or maintain their existing tenancy.
  • Nearly one-quarter of the financial assistance (22% or $11.9 million) was used to provide short-term or emergency accommodation.

Figure CLIENTS.13 Total amount of financial assistance provided to clients, by payment type, 2017–18. The vertical bar graph shows the national amounts for the 5 types of payments. Half (50%25, or $52.9 million) of the total expenditure was provided for establishing and maintaining tenancy. A further 22%25 was provided for short-term or emergency accommodation. Around 2%25 was spent on training/ education/ employment or for accessing external specialists.

Outcomes following support

The outcomes presented here examine changes in clients’ situations from the start to the end of all support; that is, clients who ceased receiving support during the financial year—meaning that their support periods had closed and they did not have ongoing support at the end of the year.

Many clients had long periods of support or even multiple support periods during 2017–18. They may have had a number of changes over the course of their support; for example, their housing situation may have changed a number of times during support. These changes within the year are not reflected in the data presented here, rather the client situation at the start of their first period of support during 2017–18 is compared with the end of their last period of support in 2017–18. 

Clients whose support period both opened and closed in 2017–18 accounted for 76% of all clients (Figure CLIENTS.1). A proportion of these clients may have sought assistance prior to 2017–18, and may seek assistance again in future years.

Housing outcomes

Three aspects of a client’s housing situation are considered in their housing circumstances: dwelling type, housing tenure and the conditions of occupancy. The outcomes presented in this section examine 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. See Technical notes for details on these categories and their derivation:

  • Support significantly reduced the number of clients who were homeless; 1 in 3 clients (32% or over 56,200) were homeless when support ended, a decrease from 43% at the start of support (Supplementary table CLIENTS.22).
  • The number of clients ‘rough sleeping’ and ‘couch surfing’ reduced following support; the reduction in the proportion of clients who were homeless following support was due to decreases in the proportion of clients with no shelter or living in improvised dwellings (from 10% to 6%) and in the proportion of clients living in a house, townhouse or flat as a ‘couch surfer’ with no tenure (from 17% to 12%).
  • Clients living in public or community housing increased following support; there was an increase in clients living in some form of tenure over the course of support, including an increase in the proportion of clients living in public or community housing from 15% to 22% (or almost 38,000 clients) (Figure CLIENTS.14).

These trends demonstrate that by the end of support, many clients have achieved or progressed towards more stable housing. Stable housing, for the purpose of the SHSC, refers to clients ending support in public or community housing (renter or rent-free), private or other housing (renter, rent-free or owner) or institutional settings.

Figure CLIENTS.14 Clients by housing situation at beginning of support and end of support, 2017–18. The grouped horizontal bar graph shows the proportion of clients in different housing situations, from first to last reported. Improvements in housing situations of clients are shown by increases in private/ other housing and public or community housing (5%25 and 7%25, respectively) at the end of support, offset by decreases in the homeless categories, no shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling, and couch surfing or no tenure (4%25 and 5%25, respectively) situations.

While overall housing outcome figures reflect trends towards more stable housing for many clients, there are differences in stable housing achievement for homeless and at risk clients. In general terms, agencies were successful in preventing those at risk of homelessness from becoming homeless by working to sustain and maintain existing tenancies or establishing new tenancies. For those clients who were homeless, agencies were able to assist those clients into temporary accommodation and sometimes into public or community housing or private or other housing.

The majority of clients presenting to SHS services were housed but at risk of homelessness. Housing outcomes at the end of support for these clients at risk of homelessness were favourable (Supplementary table CLIENTS.22):

  • Almost 9 in 10 (85% or 21,400) who were living in public or community housing were assisted to maintain their existing tenancy. A further 7% (1,700) were assisted into private or other housing and 1% (160) were in an institutional setting.
  • Over 8 in 10 who were living in private or other housing were assisted to maintain their housing (84% or 55,800) while a further 6% (4,000) were assisted into public or community housing.

For clients who were homeless on presentation (Table CLIENTS.2):

  • About 4 in 10 (38%) were assisted by agencies into stable housing; most were assisted into private or other housing (about 15,500) and a further 10,500 into public or community housing.
  • About 4 in 10 (44%) of those who were in short-term or emergency accommodation were assisted into stable housing, most of the 11,600 into private or other housing (54%).

Table CLIENTS.2: Clients with closed support, by housing situation at beginning and end of support, 2017–18 (per cent of all clients)

Situation at beginning of support

 Situation at end of support:
homeless

Situation at end of support:
housed

Homeless 

61.8

38.2

At risk of homelessness 

9.7

90.3

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Proportions include only clients with closed support at the end of the reporting period. Per cent calculations are based on total clients, excluding ‘Not stated/other’.

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2017–18, National supplementary table CLIENTS.22.

Other outcomes for clients

Specialist homelessness agencies may support clients in a number of non-housing areas to reduce their vulnerability to homelessness. These include changes in educational enrolment status, labour force status and income.

Education

  • Educational enrolment remains stable; for clients whose support had ended, there was little change in the proportion of clients enrolled in education/training from the beginning to the end of support (approximately 21% at the start and end).
  • Among those who also had an identified need for support relating to education or training assistance, 41% were enrolled in education/training at the beginning of support, and this increased to 42% at the end of support (Supplementary table CLIENTS.23).

Employment

  • Employment increases following support; among those clients who had an identified need for employment assistance, the proportion of clients who were employed increased from 13% at the start of support to 22% at the end of support (Figure CLIENTS.15).

Figure CLIENTS.15 Clients needing assistance relating to employment, by labour force status at beginning and at end of support, 2017–18. The grouped vertical bar graph shows that 22%25 of clients needing assistance relating to employment were employed at the end of support, nearly double that at the beginning of support. There was a small decrease in the proportion of clients not in the labour force (24%25 down to 21%25) following assistance.

Income

SHS agencies often provide services to clients aged 15 and over needing assistance to obtain or maintain a government payment or employment assistance:

  • Agencies assisted clients receiving a government payment; of those who needed this type of assistance, the proportion of clients reporting a government payment or allowance as their main income increased from 72% at the start of support to 78% at the end of support.
  • There was a reduction in those reporting that they received no income from 13% to 8% and the proportion awaiting government benefits halved (from 7% to 3%) (Figure CLIENTS.16).

Figure CLIENTS.16 Clients needing assistance to secure an income, by main source of income at beginning and at end of support, 2017–18. The grouped vertical bar graph shows that the main source of income for the vast majority of clients with an income related need was a government allowance (73%25). Following support this proportion increased to 81%25 of clients with lower proportions awaiting government benefits (3%25) or with no income (8%25).

Achievement of case management goals

Case management plans enable agency workers to assist a client to work towards agreed goals. In some cases, support periods are too short to allow for a case management plan; for example, when a client stays for a 24-hour period or less. In other cases, a client may decline a case management plan. Case management approaches can differ across SHS services and over time as state and territory policies and practices change:

  • For those clients with closed support, 63% (or about 142,300 clients) had a case management plan—51% in their own right and 12% were part of another client’s case management plan, often as part of a family. The proportion of clients with a case management plan was similar in 2016–17 (62%).
  • Among those who had a plan in their own right, 70% achieved some of their case management goals, 24% achieved all their goals and 6% did not achieve any goals (Supplementary table CLIENTS.26). The proportion of clients achieving all their goals was similar when compared with the previous year (23%).
  • Of the 37% of clients whose support had ended and who did not have a case management plan, the most common reason given for not having one was that the service episode was too short (71%) while a further 10% did not agree to have a case management plan.

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017. Australian demographic statistics, Mar 2017. ABS cat. no. 3101.0. Canberra: ABS.
  2. ABS 2017. Migration, Australia, 2015–16. ABS cat. no. 3412.0. Canberra: ABS.