Data source and key concepts

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 the National 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.

Psychiatric disability support services

Key concept Description
Accommodation support Accommodation support services provide the support needed to enable a person with a disability to remain in their existing accommodation or to move to more suitable or appropriate accommodation. It includes Large residential institutions, Small residential institutions, Hostels, Group homes, personal care by an attendant, in-home Accommodation support, alternative family placement (such as shared-care arrangements and host family placements) and other short-term one-off support such as crisis accommodation.
Australian Government funded services Australian Government funded services include the National Disability Agreement (NDA) Employment services funded directly from the Australian Government.
Community access Community access services are designed to provide opportunities for people with a disability to gain and use their abilities to enjoy their full potential for social independence. They include learning and life skills development, and recreation and holiday programs. 
Community support Community support services provide assistance with non-institutionalised living arrangements, such as specialised therapeutic care services, early childhood intervention, behaviour and/or specialist intervention, regional resource and support teams, counselling and case management. 
Employment services Employment services include open Employment services that provide assistance in obtaining and/or retaining paid employment in the open labour market and supported Employment services that provide employment opportunities and assistance to work in specialised and supported environments. 
Group homes Group homes provide combined accommodation and community-based residential support to people in a residential setting and are generally staffed 24 hours a day. Usually, no more than 6 service users are located in any one home. 
Hostels Hostels provide residential support in a setting of usually less than 20 beds and may or may not provide 24-hour residential support. Unlike residential facilities/institutions, Hostels do not provide segregated specialist services.
Large residential facilities/institutions Large residential facilities/institutions provide 24-hour residential support in a setting of more than 20 beds. In some cases a range of residential and vocational/day services, and/or Respite services are provided on the one site.
National Disability Agreement (NDA)

Originally signed by Australian Government and state and territory governments in January 2009 (replacing the previous Commonwealth State/Territory Disability Agreement), the National Disability Agreement articulates the roles of the governments in delivering specialist disability services. The agreement’s overarching objective is to provide more opportunities for people with disability and their carers to participate in economic and social life (COAG 2012).

A revised NDA was endorsed by Council of Australian Governments (COAG) members in 2012. In addition to changes that reflect the new policy directions for community care in the National Health Reform Agreement, the revised NDA includes five new reform priorities. The priority areas for reform are aimed at building the evidence base for disability policies and strategies; enhancing family and carer capacity; strategies for increasing choice, control and self-directed decision-making; building innovative and flexible support models for people with high and complex needs; and developing employment opportunities for people with disability (COAG 2012; DSS 2012).
National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) The NDIA is an independent statutory agency whose role is to implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIA collects data on the NDIS and publishes quarterly reports.
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

The Australian Government announced the introduction of the NDIS in July 2012. The NDIS provides ‘reasonable and necessary supports’ to help people who have a ‘significant and permanent’ disability. The scheme is based on an insurance model, and each individual seeking access is assessed according to a common set of criteria. Individuals who are deemed eligible receive a package of funding to purchase the supports identified in their individualised plan.

Because of the fundamental change to service provision, the NDIS is being rolled out in stages—trial sites began roll-out in July 2013, the full scheme roll-out began in July 2016 and state-wide roll-out started in July 2018. The NDIS is administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA 2020a).
Non-residential support services Non-residential support services are services that support people with a disability to live in a non-institutional setting through the provision of Community support, Community access, Accommodation support in the community (including personal care by an attendant, in-home Accommodation support, alternative family placement and other Accommodation support), Respite and/or Employment services.
Other significant disability

Disability refers to the impairment of body structures or functions, limitations in activities, or restrictions in participation.

Other significant disability refers to disability group(s) other than that indicated as being ‘primary’ that also clearly expresses the experience of disability by a person and/or causes difficulty for the person. A number of other significant disabilities may be identified for each service user.

Primary disability

Disability refers to the impairment of body structures or functions, limitations in activities, or restrictions in participation.

Primary disability is the disability group that most clearly expresses the experience of disability by a person, and causes the most difficulty for the person in their daily life.

Psychiatric disability Psychiatric disability within the Disability Services NMDS collection includes clinically recognisable symptoms and behaviour patterns frequently associated with distress that may impair functioning in normal social activity. Psychiatric disability may be associated with schizophrenia, affective disorders, anxiety disorders, addictive behaviours, personality disorders, stress, psychosis, depression and adjustment disorders, but dementias, specific learning disorders (such as attention deficit disorder) and autism are excluded.
Psychosocial disability Psychosocial disability in the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a term used to describe a disability that may arise from a mental health issue. For a person with a psychosocial disability to access the Scheme, they need to have a permanent or likely-to-be permanent disability as a result of their mental health condition. The condition must have a significant impact on their day-to-day life and the person’s ability to participate in the community. It also needs to be likely that the person will need support for the rest of their life (NDIA 2020b).
Residential support services Residential support services are services that provide accommodation for people with a disability. They include accommodation in large (>20 places) and small (7–20 places) residential facilities/institutions; Hostels; and Group homes (<7 places).
Respite services Respite services provide a short-term and time-limited break for families and other voluntary caregivers of people with disability and include services such as those provided in the individual’s home, in centres, in respite homes and with host families. Although respite is provided to both the person with disability and their caregiver, in this report the person with disability is regarded as the client, and numbers presented in the tables/figures reflect this definition.
Service type and service group Service type and service group refer to the classification of services according to the support activity which the service provider is providing under the NDA. Service types are rolled into service groups for data relating to non-residential services.
Small residential facilities/institutions Small residential facilities/institutions provide 24-hour residential support in a setting of 7 to 20 beds. In some cases a range of residential and vocational/day services, and/or Respite services are provided on the one site.
State or territory administered services State or territory administered services include those services providing any residential service and those providing the non-residential service groups of Accommodation support, Community support, Community access and Respite. Joint funding of these agencies may occur between the state/territory and the Australian Government as specified by the NDA.