Service provision

Mental health-related support

There were about 233,400 Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) clients aged 10 years and over reported in 2015–16. Of these, about 3 in 10 (72,364 or 31.0%) were clients with a current mental health issue.

Following presentation to a SHS agency, clients may receive accommodation services, other support services (excluding accommodation services), a combination of both, or, for a range of reasons, may have no services or referrals provided. Nationally, 36,691 clients with a current mental health issue accessed accommodation services, a rate of 175.8 clients per 100,000 population. This was lower than the rate for clients without a current mental health issue (244.8) in 2015–16 (Figure SHS.1). This pattern was seen in most states and territories. New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania had similar rates of accommodation service use for clients with and without a current mental health issue. Northern Territory had the largest difference in rates of accommodation service use between clients with and without a current mental health issue (319.5 per 100,000 population, compared to 1,413.7), while the Australian Capital Territory had a higher rate of service use for clients with a current mental health issue (290.5 per 100,000 population, compared to 233.9).

Figure SHS.1: SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue, Accommodation service use, states and territories, 2015–16

Vertical bar chart showing the rate of SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue by state/territory, for residential services in 2015–16. Clients with a current mental health issue: NSW 178.0; Vic 235.7; Qld 148.3; WA 129.6; SA 111.8; Tas 444.1; ACT 290.5; NT 319.5; Total 175.8. Clients without a current mental health issue: NSW 181.9; Vic 247.8; Qld 265.7; WA 291.6; SA 239.0; Tas 444.4; ACT 233.9; NT 1,413.7; Total 244.8. Refer to Table SHS.1

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.
Source data: Specialised homelessness services Table SHS.1 (743KB XLS).

 

For other types of support services, clients with a current mental health issue accessed services, at a lower rate than clients without a current mental health issue, both nationally and in all jurisdictions. The national rate was 164.5 for clients with a current mental health issue per 100,000 population, compared to 497.2 for clients without a current mental health issue. The largest difference in rates of other support service use between clients with and without a current mental health issue occurred in the Northern Territory (169.9 per 100,000 population, compared to 1,105.3), followed by Victoria (269.9 compared to 917.4) (Figure SHS.2).

Figure SHS.2: SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue, Other support service use, states and territories, 2015–16

Vertical bar chart showing the rate of SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue by state/territory, for other support services, in 2015–16. Clients with a current mental health issue: NSW 149.0; Vic 269.9; Qld 86.6; WA 92.6; SA 197.3; Tas 155.9; ACT 229.8; NT 169.9; Total 164.5. Clients without a current mental health issue: NSW 333.3; Vic 917.4; Qld 268.8; WA 351.5; SA 643.1; Tas 278.1; ACT 383.6; NT 1,105.3; Total 497.2. Refer to Table SHS.1

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.
Source data: Specialised homelessness services Table SHS.1 (743KB XLS).

Clients and support periods over time

Episodes of assistance provided by SHS agencies are called support periods and clients may have had more than one support period in 2015–16, either at the same agency at different times or with different agencies.

Nationally, the rate of support periods (per 100,000 population) increased between 2011–12 to 2015–16 at an annual average rate of 16.8% (Figure SHS.3). The rate of change varied between jurisdictions, ranging from an annual average increase of 7.1% in Queensland to an annual average increase of 30.6% in Tasmania.

Nationally, the rate of clients with a current mental health issue (per 100,000 population) increased between 2011–12 and 2015–16 at an annual average rate of 14.9% (Figure SHS.2). These increases may be influenced by some states and territories. The rate of change varied between jurisdictions, ranging from an annual average increase of 8.2% in Western Australia, to 20.5% in Tasmania.

Figure SHS.3: SHS clients with a current mental health issue and support periods, 2011–12 to 2015–16

Line chart showing the rate per 100,000 population of SHS support periods and clients with a current mental health issue from 2011–12 to 2015–16. The rate of clients and rate of support periods both show a gradual increase over time. Rates for clients: 2011–12 199.1, 2012–13 212.0, 2013–14 241.6, 2014–15 266.9, 2015–16 346.7. Rates for support periods: 2011–12 436.4, 2012–13 505.9, 2013–14 552.7, 2014–15 612.5, 2015–16 811.2. Refer to Table SHS.2

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.
Source data: Specialised homelessness services Table SHS.2 (743KB XLS).

In 2015–16, nationally there were 346.7 clients with a current mental health issue per 100,000 population. Tasmania had the highest rate of clients per 100,000 population (611.5), followed by ACT (527.1) and Victoria (517.0).

In 2015–16, Victoria had the highest rate of support periods (1,565.8 per 100,000 population), followed by Tasmania (1,531.6) and the Australian Capital Territory (995.7). Nationally, there were 811.2 support periods per 100,000 population.

Client characteristics

For clients with a current mental health issue, 18–24 year olds had the highest rate of SHS agency use followed by 15–17 year olds (635.0 and 586.3 per 100,000 population respectively) in 2015–16. The rate of service use was higher for clients without a current mental health issue, compared to clients with a current mental health issue, in all age groups, ranging from 1.9 times higher in 25–44 and 45–54 year olds to 5 times higher in 10–14 year olds (Figure SHS.4).

Figure SHS.4: SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue, by age group, 2015–16

Horizontal bar chart showing the rate per 100,000 population of SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue, by age group for 2015–16. With a current mental health issue: 65+ 35.8 per 100,000 population, 55–64 156.1, 45–54 363.4, 35–44 524.8, 25–34 454.9, 18–24 635.0, 15–17 586.3, 10–14 193.3. Without a current mental health issue: 65+ 169.8 per 100,000 population, 55–64 355.5, 45–54 675.5, 35–44 1,020.6, 25–34 1,041.6, 18–24 1,281.5, 15–17 1,263.7, 10–14 972.1. Refer to table SHS.3

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.
Source data: Specialised homelessness services Table SHS.3 (743KB XLS).

Rates of SHS agency use were higher for females with a current mental health issue (400.1 per 100,000 population) than males with a current mental health issue (292.1) in 2015–16. The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander SHS clients with a current mental health issue was more than 6 times that of non-Indigenous Australians (1,688.5 and 257.1 per 100,000 population respectively).

A specialist homelessness agency/outreach worker was the most frequently recorded source of referral to SHS agencies (14.5%) for clients with a current mental health issue during 2015–16. The next most frequently recorded sources were referrals from other agencies (government or non-government) (11.4%) and mental health services (5.7%).

About half of SHS clients (47.6%) with a current mental health issue reported an episode of homelessness in the 12 months before presenting to an agency, compared with one third (32.6%) of those clients without a current mental health issue.

Service use

Main reason for seeking assistance

In 2015–16, more than 1 in 4 SHS clients (26.6%) with a mental health issue reported housing crisis as the main reason for seeking assistance, followed by domestic and family violence (16.8%), inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions (11.1%) and financial difficulties (10.4%) (Figure SHS.5). In contrast, domestic and family violence (28.9%), housing crisis (23.5%) and financial difficulties (14.1%) were the top three main reasons for seeking assistance for SHS clients without a current mental health issue. About 1 in 20 (5.1%) SHS clients with a current mental health issue had mental health issues recorded as their main reason for seeking assistance.

Figure SHS.5: SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue, by the 10 most frequently reported main reasons for seeking assistance, 2015–16

Horizontal bar chart showing per cent of SHS clients with and without current mental health issue by main reason for seeking assistance 2015–16. Clients with a current mental health issue: Housing crises (26.6), domestic and family violence (16.8), inadequate dwelling conditions (11.1), financial difficulties (10.4). Clients without a current mental health issue:  Housing crises (23.5), domestic and family violence (28.9), inadequate dwelling conditions (9.6), financial difficulties (14.1). Refer to Table SHS.6.

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.
Source data: Specialised homelessness services Table SHS.6 (743KB XLS).

SHS clients can nominate other reasons for seeking assistance alongside their 'primary' reason. When all presenting reasons for seeking assistance are considered, housing crisis (56.9%) and mental health issues (52.2%) were the most frequently reported reasons for clients with a current mental health issue.

Services and assistance

Of the 72,364 SHS clients with a current mental health issue in 2015–16, 71,027 clients (98.2%) received a service or referral. The most common service or referral provided was advice/information (88.2%), followed by other basic assistance (74.8%), advocacy/liaison on behalf of client (67.3%) and material aid/brokerage (44.0%).

Length of support provided

In 2015–16, over a quarter of clients with a current mental health issue received 6–45 days (27.1%) of support, while a further 22.6% received over 180 days (6 months). More than half of clients (58.1%) with a current mental health issue received more than 45 days support. In contrast, about two thirds of clients (63.4%) without a current mental health issue received between 0–45 days of support (Figure SHS.6). These figures represent the total length of support provided to a client during 2015–16, rather than the number of support periods.

Figure SHS.6: SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue, by total length of support provided, 2015–16

Horizontal bar chart showing the per cent of SHS clients with and without a current mental health issue by the length of support provided in 2015–16. Clients with a current mental health issue: up to 5 days 14.8%25, 6–45 days 27.1%25, 46–90 days 17.1%25, 91–180 days 18.3%25, over 180 days 22.6%25. Clients without a current mental health issue: up to 5 days 31.5%25, 6–45 days 31.9%25, 46–90 days 14.5%25, 91–180 days 11.8%25, over 180 days 10.3%25. Refer to Table SHS.9.

Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection.
Source data: Specialised homelessness services Table SHS.9 (743KB XLS).