Data sources

Disability Services National Minimum Data Set

Data pertaining to services provided under the National Disability Agreement (NDA) are collected through the Disability Services National Minimum Data Set (Disability Services NMDS). This NMDS, managed by the AIHW, facilitates the annual collation of nationally comparable data about disability support services. Services within the scope of the collection are those for which funding has been provided during the specified period by a government organisation operating under the NDA. An agency may receive funding from multiple sources. Where an agency is unable to differentiate service users according to funding source, they are asked to provide details of all service users for each service type. The progressive transition of service users from the NDA to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has reduced the collection of data under the NDA. For this reason, comparisons between years should be undertaken with caution.

With the exceptions noted below, agencies are asked to provide information about:

  • each of the service type outlets for which they are funded
  • each service user who received support over a specified reporting period
  • the Disability Services NMDS service type(s) each service user received.

However, certain service type outlets—such as those providing advocacy, information and alternative forms of communication—are not requested to provide any service user details, and other service type outlets (such as recreation and holiday programs) are only asked to provide minimal service user details.

The collection includes those disability support service providers that provide services under the NDA—including some psychiatric-specific disability service providers and other disability service providers—that may be accessed by people with a psychiatric disability. It should be noted that the NDA does not apply to the provision of services with a specialist clinical focus.

Data for the 2018–19 collection period were released in Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2018–19 (AIHW 2020). The scope of services varied in terms of programs provided across jurisdictions. For example, in Victoria and Queensland, specialist psychiatric disability services were provided under the NDA. However, in all other jurisdictions specific mental health services were funded and provided under the Health, rather than the Disability (or other), portfolio. In addition, Victoria changed the way service users with a psychiatric disability were reported between Mental health services in Australia publications. Therefore, comparisons between publications should be approached with caution. Further information can be found in the Disability Services National Minimum Data Set 2018–19; Quality Statement and the Disability Services NMDS collection guides.

Response rates

For the 2018–19 collection, there was an overall response rate of 92.5% for service outlets, although rates were variable across jurisdictions. The response rates estimate the number of service outlets providing service user data. Information on which service type outlets provided information for each collection period is not available as part of the Disability Services NMDS. Therefore, there is the possibility that, between collection periods, different outlets, with different proportions of psychiatric disability users, are providing information to the Disability Services NMDS. In addition, the number of non-responses for the item 'Primary disability group' also varies considerably between jurisdictions. The service type outlet response rates and the non-response rates for states and territories for 2005–06 to 2018–19 are shown in Table DIS.12. The user response rate within these outlets cannot be reliably estimated.

The statistical linkage key

Individuals may receive disability support services from more than one service provider, or from multiple jurisdictions. A statistical linkage key enables unique service user counts to be estimated from the data collected by service type outlets and agencies. To link records within the Disability Services NMDS, the statistical linkage key components of each record for a service received are compared electronically with the statistical linkage key components of all other records. Records that have matching statistical linkage keys are assumed to belong to the same individual service user and are linked. There is a small probability that some of the linked records do not actually belong to the same individual, and, conversely, that some records that did not link do belong to the same individual. More technical information on the use, calculation and validity of the statistical linkage key can be found in the supplementary tables to the publication, Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2018–19 (AIHW 2020), and in the associated Disability Services National Minimum Data Set 2018–19; Quality Statement.

Indigenous status

For 2018–19, the proportion of all users of disability support services who identified as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people was higher than the proportion in the general population (5.5% versus 3.3%) (ABS 2018). Further information can be found in Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2018–19 (AIHW 2020).

Transition of NDA service users to the NDIS

Most existing NDA service users are expected to move to the NDIS over time, but not all will. Some people currently receiving services are not eligible to enter the NDIS (such as those aged 65 and over who are not already NDIS participants).

Data collected through the Disability Services NMDS from 2013–14 onwards are affected by the progressive introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). As a result, analysing trends in Disability Services NMDS data over time is complex; but decreases in those services moving to the NDIS, such as state and territory-provided services and Australian Government-supported employment services, are generally expected as the NDIS continues to roll out.

For the purposes of the Disability Services NMDS, once a service user has an approved NDIS plan and funding is available through theNational Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), they are considered to have transitioned to the NDIS and are no longer reported in the Disability Services NMDS from the date of their transition.


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2016. Cat. No. 3238.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2020. Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2018–19. Bulletin no. 149. Cat. no. DIS 75. Canberra: AIHW.

NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency) 2019. COAG Disability Reform Council Quarterly Report. 30 June 2019 NDIA. Viewed 29 April 2020.