Client contacts

The total number of client contacts dropped by nearly 93,000 between 2018–19 and 2019–20 (which included the first 4 months of the pandemic), from approximately 4.6 million to 4.5 million. The total number of client contacts was then stable between 2020–21 and 2019–20 (Table 2).

Underpinning these aggregate numbers were considerable variations at the organisation level:

  • Comparing 2019–20 with 2018–19 (Table 2A), 12 organisations had more than a 20% decrease in their client contacts (with a total of around 158,000 fewer client contacts than in the previous period), while 18 organisations had more than a 20% increase in their client numbers (with a total of around 93,100 more client contacts).
  • Comparing 2020–21 with 2019–20 (Table 2B), there were 25 organisations with more than a 20% decrease in their client contacts. Even though this was a higher number of organisations with a 20% or more decrease in client contacts, the total reduction in client contacts was lower (around 69,400 fewer client contacts). Sixteen organisations had more than a 20% increase in client contacts (with a total of around 120,000 more client contacts).

Table 2. Number of client contacts (excluding transport) and number of organisations who cited the pandemic as a reason for variation in numbers between periods, by degree of variation from previous period

Table 2A. 2019–20 compared with 2018–19

 

Client contacts 2019–20

Client contacts 2018–19

Difference in client contacts between periods

 

Organisations who cited pandemic
2019–20

Organisation who did not cite pandemic 2019–20

Total organisations 2019–20

Organisations with 20% or more decrease

157,035

315,208

–158,173

 

6

6

12

Organisations with 20% or more increase

363,442

270,367

93,075

 

2

16

18

Organisations with less than 20% change

4,008,035

4,034,576

–26,541

 

130

130

Total

4,528,512

4,620,151

–91,639

 

8

152

160

Table 2B. 2020–21 compared with 2019–20

 

Client contacts 2020–21

Client contacts 2019–20

Difference in client contacts between periods

 

Organisations who cited pandemic
2020–21

Organisation who did not cite pandemic 2020–21

Total organisations 2020–21

Organisations with 20% or more decrease

189,222

258,633

–69,411

 

7

18

25

Organisations with 20% or more increase

545,344

424,872

120,472

 

3

13

16

Organisations with less than 20% change

3,798,898

3,845,007

–46,109

 

261

93

119

Total

4,533,464

4,528,512

4952

 

37

124

160

Notes

  1. Organisations that reported to the OSR collection in 2018–19, 2019–20, and 2020–21 and had no identified issues in the comparability of their data over time. One organisation was excluded from the client contacts analysis because their data for one of the collections was excluded.
  2. For client contacts, the validation rules trigger for 20% change in individual subcategories as well as the total. Thus, an organisation’s overall total may represent less than a 20% variation from their previous total, but they may have made a comment against an individual value.

Source: AIHW analysis of the OSR collection.

Organisations’ comments showed that the pandemic did have an effect on the client contacts for at least 7 organisations in 2019–20 and 26 in 2020–21.

The pandemic’s role in decreasing client contacts was related to a combination of:

  • lockdowns and travel restrictions which reduced mobility of both clients and staff (combination of fewer available staff and inability/reluctance of clients to attend)
  • re-orientation of staff and resources towards pandemic specific activities (such as vaccination or testing clinics)
  • whether telehealth consultations were included as contacts in clients’ records, with some organisations reporting that they were not.

The pandemic was also cited as a reason for increased activities, particularly in the 2020–21 period:

  • some organisations experienced a ‘rebound’ effect, where they provided additional appointments and services to make up for those that had been restricted during the first wave of the pandemic
  • the need to pre-screen clients for respiratory symptoms or COVID-19 prior to their attendance face-to-face led to increased contacts, as well as increased activities of those running screening services
  • opening of vaccination clinics to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients.

Additionally, one organisation reported that they had an increase in the presentation of Indigenous clients seeking culturally safe services because of their concerns about COVID-19.