Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021–22, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 09 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021–22. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021–22. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 08 December 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021–22 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2023 Feb. 9]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021–22, viewed 9 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
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People leaving care arrangements, including people transitioning from health care settings (hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation and aged care facilities) and young people transitioning from out-of-home care (foster care and residential care facilities), can find themselves particularly vulnerable to homelessness. This can be due to inadequate transition planning, undertaking discharge assessments in time or resource-pressured environments and limited options for exit into suitable and secure housing (Brackertz et al. 2018). One study of care leavers in Victoria found that more than half of the participants accessed specialised homelessness services in the 4 years following their transition from care (Martin et al. 2021).
In 2020–21, around 3,900 young people aged 15–17 were discharged from out-of-home care in Australia (AIHW 2022), corresponding with the end of formal support in the child protection system. Around 1 in 3 (30%) young people leaving out-of-home care experience homelessness at some stage within their first year after leaving care (37% of these for 6 months or more) (McDowall 2020).
Young people transitioning from out-of-home care face barriers to accessing the same opportunities as their non-care peers who increasingly rely on parental resources in young adulthood (Wilkins et al. 2019). During this accelerated transition to independence, young people leaving care need adequate support to access safe and stable housing, education, employment, financial security, supportive relationships and networks, and life skills (FaHCSIA 2011).
People transitioning from health care settings are also at risk of being discharged into homelessness. In a study of people who have experienced homelessness, 17% had been admitted to hospital for a mental health diagnosis in the previous 2 years (Wood et al. 2016). Discharge from a psychiatric hospital in particular has been identified as a key pathway into homelessness among people with mental health issues (Nielssen et al. 2018).
People exiting institutions and care into homelessness are a national priority homelessness cohort identified in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement which came into effect on 1 July 2018 (CRRF 2018) (See Policy section for more information).
Reporting clients leaving care in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)
In the SHSC, a client is identified as transitioning from care arrangements if, in their first support period during the reporting period, either in the week before or at presentation:
Note that these dwelling types are part of the broad housing situation ‘Institutional settings’, which also includes categories relating to custodial arrangements. See the associated section for information specifically relating to Clients exiting custodial arrangements.
For more information see Technical notes.
In 2021–22 (Supplementary table LCARE.1 and Historical data table HIST.LCARE):
This interactive image describes the characteristics of around 6,000 clients leaving care who received support in 2021–22. Most clients were male, aged 18–44. Just over a quarter were Indigenous. Victoria had the greatest number of clients and the Northern Territory had the highest rate of clients per 10,000 population. The majority of clients had previously been assisted by a SHS agency since July 2011. Most were at risk of experiencing homelessness at the start of support. Most were in major cities.
In 2021–22, of the 6,000 SHS clients who were leaving care and stated their dwelling type at the beginning of support (Supplementary table LCARE.7):
In 2021–22, of the 6,000 SHS clients leaving care (Supplementary table CLIENTS.40):
Clients leaving care may face challenges that make them more vulnerable to experiencing homelessness, more specifically, family and domestic violence, a current mental health issue and problematic drug and/or alcohol use.
The interactive bar graph shows the number of SHS clients leaving care also experiencing additional vulnerabilities, including family and domestic violence, having a current mental health issue and problematic drug and/or alcohol use. The graph shows both the number of clients experiencing a single vulnerability only, as well combinations of vulnerabilities, and presents data for each state and territory.
The median length of support clients leaving care received in 2021–22 was 75 days, an increase from 63 days in 2017–18. The average number of support periods was 2.0 per client. The proportion of clients receiving accommodation was 46% for a median of 54 nights of accommodation (Supplementary table CLIENTS.46).
In 2021–22, the main reasons for seeking assistance among clients leaving care were (Supplementary table LCARE.5):
Clients leaving care who were at risk of homelessness at first presentation were more likely to identify mental health issues (9.9% of those at risk, compared with 4.6% experiencing homelessness) and family and domestic violence (9.0%, compared with 5.9% experiencing homelessness) as the main reason for seeking assistance (Supplementary table LCARE.6).
Clients leaving care who were experiencing homelessness at first presentation were more likely to report transition from other care arrangements (20%, compared with 9.8% at risk) or transition from foster care and child safety residential placements (12%, compared with 5.0% at risk) as the main reason for seeking assistance.
Similar to the overall SHS population, clients leaving care needed general services which were mostly always provided by SHS agencies including advice/information, advocacy/liaison on behalf of client and other basic assistance.
Clients leaving care were more likely than all SHS clients to need services including (Supplementary tables LCARE.2, CLIENTS.24):
This interactive stacked horizontal bar graph shows the services needed by clients leaving care and their provision status. Advice/information was the most needed service and provided to the most clients. Long term housing was the least provided service.
Outcomes presented here highlight the changes in clients’ housing situation at the start and end of support. That is, the place they were residing before and after they were supported by a SHS agency. The information presented is limited only to clients who have stopped receiving support during the financial year, and who were no longer receiving ongoing support from a SHS agency. In particular, information on client housing situations at the start of their first period of support during 2021–22 is compared with the end of their last period of support in 2021–22. As such, this information does not cover any changes to their housing situation during their support period.
By the end of support, some clients had achieved or progressed towards a more positive housing solution, however, for some clients transitioning from institutional setting can be challenging. The most common housing situation for clients leaving care at both the beginning and end of SHS support was institutional settings; more than 2,400 clients (62%) at the beginning and around 850 clients (24%) at the end of support. Institutional settings include hospitals, psychiatric hospital/units, rehabilitation and aged care facilities and may be a reflection of support provided while clients were in these settings, or may reflect clients returned to these settings (Supplementary table LCARE.3).
Outside of institutional settings, the number and/or proportion of clients housed in public or community housing (renter or rent-free) or private or other housing (renter or rent-free) increased compared with the start of support. For clients leaving care arrangements in 2021–22, around 980 clients (25%) were experiencing homelessness at the start of support; around 580 (15%) were in short-term temporary accommodation (Supplementary table LCARE.3).
By the end of support, of clients with a known housing situation at the start and end of support (Supplementary table LCARE.4):
This interactive Sankey diagram shows the housing situation (including rough sleeping, couch surfing, short-term accommodation, public/community housing, private housing and institutional settings) of clients leaving care with closed support periods at first presentation and at the end of support. The diagram shows clients’ housing situation journey from start to end of support. Most started support in institutional settings. Most ended support in either institutional settings or private housing.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Child protection Australia 2020–21, AIHW website, accessed 31 October 2021.
Brackertz N, Wilkinson A and Davison J (2018) Housing, homelessness and mental health: towards systems change, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, Melbourne.
Council on Federal Financial Relations (2018) National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, CFFR website, accessed 31 October 2022.
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2011) An outline of National Standards for out-of-home care: a priority project under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 FaHCSIA website.
Martin R, Cordier R, Jau J, Randall S, Thoresen S, Ferrante A, Chavulak J, Morris S, Mendes P, Liddiard M, Johnson G and Chung D (2021) ‘Accommodating transition: improving housing outcomes for young people leaving OHC’, AHURI Final Report No. 364, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, Melbourne.
McDowall JJ (2020) Transitioning to Adulthood from Out-of-Home Care: Independence or Interdependence, CREATE Foundation, accessed 29 September 2022.
Nielssen OB, Stone W, Jones NM, Challis S, Nielssen A, Elliott G, Burns N, Rogoz A, Cooper LE and Large MM (2018) ‘Characteristics of people attending psychiatric clinics in inner Sydney homeless hostels’, The Medical Journal of Australia, 208(4): 169-173.
Wilkins R, Laß I, Butterworth P and Vera-Toscano E (2019) The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: selected findings from waves 1 to 17, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, Melbourne.
Wood L, Flatau P, Zaretzky K, Foster S, Vallesi S and Miscenko, D (2016) ‘What are the health, social and economic benefits of providing public housing and support to formerly homeless people?’, AHURI Final Report No. 265, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, Melbourne.
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