Services accessed by clients with a current mental health issue

Service types

Following presentation to an SHS agency, clients may receive Accommodation services, Other support services (excluding accommodation services), a combination of both, or no services or referrals provided.

Nationally, nearly 39,000 clients with a current mental health issue accessed accommodation services in 2017–18, a rate of 179.7 clients per 100,000 population—which is lower than the rate for clients without a current mental health issue (219.0) (Figure SHS.5). This pattern was also seen in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory had the largest difference in the rates of accommodation service use between clients with and without a current mental health issue (337.4 and 1,455.8 per 100,000 population, respectively). Similar accommodation service use rates for clients with and without a current mental health issue were observed for New South Wales (164.7 and 144.4 per 100,000 population) and Victoria (248.2 and 229.0).

 
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Figure SHS.5 Alternative text - Source data: Specialist homelessness services tables (854KB XLS)

The population rate of clients with a current mental health issue accessing accommodation services has continued to increase since 2011–12 (Figure SHS.6), with an average annual increase of 4.6% from 2013–14 to 2017–18. The rate for clients without a current mental health issue has decreased an average of 3.9% each year over the same period.

 
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Figure SHS.6 Alternative text- Source data: Specialist homelessness services tables (854KB XLS)

For other (non-accommodation) types of support services, clients with a current mental health issue accessed services at a lower rate than clients without, both nationally and in all states/territories. Nationally, 188.1 clients per 100,000 population with a current mental health issue and 475.2 clients without accessed other services. 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 (188.0 and 1,352.3, respectively), followed by Victoria (310.2 and 866.7) (Figure SHS.7).

 
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Figure SHS.7 Alternative text - Source data: Specialist homelessness services tables (854KB XLS)

The population rate of clients with a current mental health issue accessing other (non-accommodation) services increased over the period 2011–12 to 2017–18 (Figure SHS.8) with an average annual increase of 11.2% from 2013–14 to 2017–18. The rate of clients without a current mental health issue accessing other (non-accommodation) services decreased annually at an average of 0.8% during the same period.

 
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Figure SHS.8 Alternative text - Source data: Specialist homelessness services tables (854KB XLS)

Services and assistance

Of about 81,000 SHS clients with a current mental health issue in 2017–18, almost all received a service or referral (around 79,000 or 98.1%). The most common service or assistance provided was Advice/information (90.3%), followed by Other basic assistance (77.2%), Advocacy/liaison on behalf of client (69.5%) and Material aid/brokerage (45.5%).

Length of support

In 2017–18, clients with a current mental health issue received longer periods of support than clients without a current mental health issue overall—about 3 in 5 (61.5%) received support for longer than 45 days, including almost a quarter (24.3%) who received support for longer than 180 days (6 months) (Figure SHS.9). By contrast, more than 3 in 5 (61.5%) clients without a current mental health issue received support for 45 days or shorter, and 10.8% received support for longer than 180 days. These figures represent the total length of support provided to a SHS client during 2017–18.

 
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Figure SHS.9 Alternative text - Source data: Specialist homelessness services tables (854KB XLS)

Service provision

Episodes of assistance provided by SHS agencies are referred to as support periods and clients may have one or more during a reporting period, either at the same agency at different times or with different agencies.

In 2017–18, nationally there were 912.4 support periods per 100,000 population for SHS clients with a current mental health issue. Victoria had the highest rate of support periods (1,779.0 per 100,000 population), followed by Tasmania (1,507.3) and the Northern Territory (1,007.8).

Nationally, the rate of support periods (per 100,000 population) increased between 2013–14 and 2017–18 at an annual average rate of 9.5%. The amount of change varied between jurisdictions, ranging from an annual average decrease of 2.3% in the Australian Capital Territory to an increase of 16.5% in the Northern Territory.