Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021–22, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 04 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. 4]. 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 4 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
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Specialist homelessness services (SHS) in Australia supported, on average, an estimated 71,000 people each day in 2021–22. However, there were also people who approached agencies who were unable to be offered any assistance (unassisted requests for service) or who did not receive all the services that they required (client’s unmet need for services).
It is important to note that these figures reflect people who approach SHS agencies for support and do not reflect the level unmet demand for support for the whole of the Australian population. Results from the 2014 General Social Survey suggest that of those who had experienced homelessness in the last 10 years, approximately 67% did not seek assistance during their most recent experience of homelessness (ABS 2014).
For those that do approach a SHS agency, there may be a range of reasons an agency cannot provide assistance. For example, the person may be seeking a specialised service not offered by that particular agency, the agency may not have the capacity to provide assistance at that time or the person may not be in the target group for the agency. Research found that in 2019, 76% of staff in housing and homelessness services reported an increase in the number of clients they were unable to support and 36% reported rarely or never being able to meet demand (ACOSS 2019).
Over recent years, changes have been made to services delivery models and these systems often require agency workers to provide assistance of some kind to all presenting individuals. Therefore, caution should be used when comparing SHS data relating to unmet demand and unassisted request over time and between states and territories. See Technical information for more information.
Key findings – Unassisted requests for services
Identifying unassisted requests for services in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)
Unassisted requests for services are instances where a person requests assistance from a SHS agency and receives no assistance at the time of request. The information required for reporting is limited as it is not always appropriate for an agency to collect the same detailed information as they would if the person was to become a client.
The data does not reflect that some people may seek support from multiple different agencies on the same day, or that clients unassisted on one day may receive support another day. Also, some states/territories have central intake models, that is, agencies that link clients to specific services suited to the individual client's needs. This may decrease the number of unassisted requests for services for jurisdictions operating central intake services.
See Technical information for more information on measuring unassisted requests in the SHSC.
Across Australia, there were around 105,000 unassisted requests in 2021–22.
Some key trends in unassisted requests over time include:
Analysis of how often an unassisted person requested assistance and how many were SHS clients at some point during the 2021–22 year can only be examined and understood where the statistical linkage key (SLK) was complete and valid (around 53% of all unassisted requests).
Of the valid data, in 2021–22 on average each unassisted person approached an agency 1.6 times (Historical data table HIST.UNASSISTED). Around half (48%) of people with a valid SLK were also clients and received services at some point during the year, similar to 2020–21 (47%). The service use experience for the remaining 52% of people with a valid SLK were unknown. They may have received assistance from a non-SHS service, used their own support networks or continued to experience unstable housing or homelessness without SHS support.
Key findings – Clients’ unmet need for services
Clients receiving support from SHS agencies often need a wide range of services. Some needs arise more than once in a support period and this makes it difficult to assess the extent to which the need has been met from the available data.
Reporting unmet need for services in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)
Unmet need is recorded when an SHS client has some, but not all, their identified needs for services met. Agencies can also refer clients to another service for assistance.
More than half (60%) of all clients needed at least one type of accommodation service (Figure UNMET.1 and Supplementary table CLIENTS.24):
Agencies were able to meet the general needs of most clients. For example, of the nearly 211,300 clients who needed advice/information, 98% were provided assistance, and of the 145,700 clients requesting advocacy/liaison, 96% were provided with assistance (Supplementary table CLIENTS.24).
Other types of client needs were less commonly met. For example, among SHS clients who required professional legal services (2.8% or nearly 7,700 clients), the level of unmet need (26%) was substantial. This may be because of the specialist skills required to provide legal services and the limited availability of these skills within the SHS agencies and other referral services offered to clients.
The level of unmet need for broad groups of specialised services can be determined (Figure UNMET.2 and Supplementary table CLIENTS.24):
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia ABS website.
Australian Council of Social Service (2019) Demand for Community Services Snapshot December 2019 ACOSS website.
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