Profile of ex-serving ADF SHS clients

Key findings

  • Ex-serving ADF members were less likely to have used SHS in the 6-year period than the Australian population as a whole (1.1% compared with 3.4%).
  • Ex-serving ADF members who are women, younger, or had less ADF experience were more likely to seek homelessness services than other ex-serving ADF members.
  • At the start of support, 46% of ex-serving ADF SHS clients (whose housing situation was known) were homeless and 54% (whose housing situation was known) were at risk of homelessness.
  • 84% of ex-serving ADF SHS clients presented to a SHS agency alone, but women were more likely than men to present with children (17% and 2%, respectively).

Number of ex-serving ADF SHS clients

Between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2017, a total of 1,215 contemporary ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members (those with at least 1 day of service on or after 1 January 2001 who discharged after this date) used specialist homelessness services (SHS). Over the 6 years, the proportion of SHS clients among the contemporary ex-serving ADF population in each financial year remained relatively stable at around 37 per 10,000 (Table 1). However, as the contemporary ex-serving ADF population has increased over the reporting period, the number of SHS clients in each financial year has increased accordingly from 216 in 2011–12 to 399 in 2016–17.

Table 1: Ex-serving ADF SHS clients and contemporary ex-serving ADF population, by financial year
Financial year Total ex-serving ADF SHS clients (number) Total contemporary ex-serving ADF (number) Rate (clients per 10,000 population)
2011–12 216 70,068 31
2012–13 275 75,257 37

2013–14

292

81,647

36

2014–15

331

87,601

38

2015–16

354

95,927

37

2016–17

399

108,825

37

2011–12 to 2016–17

1,215

108,825

112

Notes

  1. The total clients using SHS between 2011–12 and 2016–17 is a count of the unique clients over the reporting period. Clients could use SHS in multiple years across the 6 years, so the sum of the number of clients per financial year is greater than the total of ex-serving ADF SHS clients.
  2. A lower proportion of agencies returned data for 2011–12 so these numbers should be interpreted with caution.

Source: AIHW analysis of linked PMKeyS–SHSC data 2011–12 to 2016–17.

The majority (66%) of contemporary ex-serving ADF SHS clients used SHS in only 1 financial year, 22% used SHS in 2 years, 8% used SHS in 3 years and less than 1% used SHS in all 6 years.

Of the 417 clients who used SHS across multiple years, 72% used it in sequential years (for example 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14), and the remaining 28% had a gap in their service use of at least 1 year.

Level of SHS use

The proportion of the contemporary ex-serving ADF population who ever used SHS during the 6 years was 1.1% (Table 2). Although there were more ex-serving men (941) who used SHS during this period than ex-serving women (274), the proportion of ex-serving women who used SHS (1.7%) was 1.6 times as high as  the proportion of ex-serving men (1.0%).

Among the general Australian population aged 17 and over, 3.4% used SHS during the 6 years. The proportion of Australian men who used SHS was 2.6%, compared with 4.2% of Australian women. The relative difference (ratio) between Australian men and Australian women was 1.6, similar to the ratio between ex-serving men and ex-serving women. This indicates that women are relatively more likely than men to be SHS clients, and the size of this effect is the same for ex-serving women as for women in the general Australian population.

Table 2: Level of SHS use among contemporary ex-serving ADF members and general Australian population, by sex, 2011–12 to 2016–17

Population group

SHS clients (number)

Population (number)

Proportion of population who were SHS clients (%)

Contemporary ex-serving ADF

1,215

108,825

1.1

Men

941

92,354

1.0

Women

274

16,471

1.7

Australia

664,026

19,389,067

3.4

Men

252,214

9,527,029

2.6

Women

411,812

9,862,038

4.2

Sources: ABS Estimated Resident Population aged 17 and over as at 30 June 2017; AIHW analysis of linked PMKeyS–SHSC data 2011–12 to 2016–17.

Across all age groups, the level of SHS use during 2011–12 to 2016–17 among ex-serving ADF members was lower, compared with use among the general Australian population (Figure 1). For ex-serving ADF members, the level of SHS use was highest among those aged 25–29 and 30–34 (both 1.6%). For the general Australian population, the highest level of use was among those aged 20–24 (5.6%).

Figure 1: Level of SHS use among contemporary ex-serving ADF members and general Australian population, by age, 2011–12 to 2016–17

This bar chart shows that, across all age groups, Australian SHS clients used SHS more than ex-serving ADF SHS clients between 2011–12 and 2016–17. Among the Australian general population, SHS use was highest among clients aged 20–24 (5.6%25). Among ex-serving ADF SHS clients, SHS use was highest among those aged 25–29 and 30–34 (both 1.6%25).

Note: Age is as at 30 June 2017.
Sources: ABS Estimated Resident Population aged 17 and over as at 30 June 2017; AIHW analysis of linked PMKeyS–SHSC data 2011–12 to 2016–17; Table S1

Comparing ex-serving ADF SHS clients with non-clients

Ex-serving ADF SHS clients are a sub-population of all contemporary ex-serving ADF members, and their demographic and service characteristics may reflect the broader contemporary population of ex-serving ADF members. Therefore, if differences are observed between ex-serving ADF SHS clients and non-clients for a particular characteristic, it suggests the characteristic may be associated with homelessness service use. Differences in demographic and service characteristics between the 2 groups across the 6-year period are described next.

Sex

Just over 3 in 4 (77%) ex-serving ADF SHS clients were men, and 23% were women (Table 3). However, among ex-serving ADF members who were not SHS clients, the proportion of men was higher (85% men, 15% women). The higher proportion of women in the sub-population of ex-serving ADF SHS clients suggests ex-serving women are more likely to use SHS services than ex-serving men (as is the case for the general Australian population of SHS clients) (AIHW 2019).

Service

Nearly 3 in 4 (71%) ex-serving ADF SHS clients discharged from the Army (Table 3), 20% from the Navy and 9% from the Air Force. The proportion of ex-serving ADF members discharged from the Army was higher among SHS clients (71%) than non-clients (65%). There was a lower proportion of Air Force members among SHS clients (9%), compared with non-clients (16%). The proportion of Navy members among SHS clients (20%) was similar to non-clients (19%). Further analysis of key findings by service is presented in the Client groups of interest section. 

Reason for discharge

There are 2 broad types of reason for discharge from the ADF: voluntary or involuntary.

  • Within the voluntary discharge type, there are the sub-categories of contract/administrative discharge (including retirement and contract completion) and voluntary–other (including voluntary discharges and redundancies).
  • There are two categories of involuntary discharge: involuntary–medical (including discharge for being medically unfit) and involuntary–other (non-medical reasons). 

Just under half (46%) of ex-serving ADF SHS clients discharged voluntarily and 50% discharged involuntarily—14% for a medical reason and 36% for a non-medical reason (Table 3). A higher proportion of ex-serving ADF SHS clients discharged involuntarily for a non medical reason (36%) compared with non-clients (27%) while there was little difference between the groups for discharge for medical reasons. Further analysis revealed no substantial differences in the number of accommodation nights or support days for clients with different reasons for discharge. 

Table 3: Demographic and service profile (sex, service and discharge reason) of contemporary ex-serving ADF members

 

Ex-serving ADF SHS clients (%)

Ex-serving non‑clients (%)

Sex

 

 

Women

23

15

Men

77

85

Service

 

 

Army

71

65

Navy

20

19

Air Force

9

16

Discharge reason

 

 

Contractual/Admin change

4

12

Voluntary

46

49

Involuntary (other)

36

27

Involuntary (medical)

14

12

Total number of clients

1,215

107,610

Note: Service is recorded as at discharge and is current as at 30 June 2017.

Source: AIHW analysis of linked PMKeyS–SHSC data 2011–12 to 2016–17.

Age, experience and length of service

Ex-serving ADF SHS clients were younger, served for a shorter period and were less likely to have operational experience, compared with ex-serving ADF members who were not SHS clients (Table 4). Differences between ex-serving ADF SHS clients and non-clients included:

  • Ex-serving ADF SHS clients were generally younger than non-clients—at the end of the reporting period (30 June 2017), 73% were aged 25–44, compared with 57% of non-clients. Also, 39% of non-clients were aged 45 and over, compared with 23% of ex-serving clients. The mean age of ex-serving ADF SHS clients was lower than the mean age of non-clients (38 and 43, respectively). See also young men with complex care needs.
  • Ex-serving ADF SHS clients discharged at a younger age—46% were aged 17–24, compared with 26% of non-clients. A lower proportion of ex-serving ADF SHS clients were aged 35 and over at their discharge date (21%) compared with non-clients (42%).
  • Ex-serving ADF SHS clients had a shorter length of service—63% of ex-serving ADF SHS clients had served for less than 5 years, compared with 34% of non-clients. One in 4 (26%) non-clients served for 20 years or more, compared with 6% of ex-serving ADF SHS clients. The mean length of service for ex-serving ADF SHS clients was also much shorter compared with non-clients (6 and 13 years, respectively). Further analysis of ex-serving ADF SHS clients with less than 5 years of service is presented in the Client groups of interest section.
  • A lower proportion of ex-serving ADF SHS clients had operational experience—14% compared with 25% of non-clients.
  • Ex-serving ADF SHS clients discharged at a lower rank—95% of ex-serving ADF SHS clients discharged at a rank other than officer, compared with 81% of non-clients.

While these characteristics have been reported individually, it is recognised that some may be related. For example, the young age of ex-serving ADF SHS clients at discharge may be related to the findings for rank, length of service and operational experience. For example, all of the ex-serving ADF SHS clients aged 17–24 as at the end of the reporting period had served for less than 5 years. This report does not analyse which characteristics are related or which are most strongly associated with SHS use. Investigation of risk factors associated with homelessness may be undertaken in future analysis.

Table 4: Demographic and service profile (age, experience and length of ADF service) of contemporary ex-serving ADF members

 

Ex-serving ADF SHS clients (%)

Ex‑serving non‑clients (%)

Age at end of reporting period

 

 

17–24

5

4

25–34

40

28

35–44

33

29

45 and over

23

39

Mean age

38

43

Rank

 

 

Officer

5

19

Other rank

95

81

Length of ADF service (years)

 

 

Less than 5

63

34

5–9

16

17

10–14

9

14

15–19

6

9

20 or more

6

26

Mean length of service

6

13

Operational experience

 

 

Any operational experience

14

25

No experience

86

75

Total number of clients

1,215

107,610

Notes

  1. Age at the end of the reporting period is calculated as at 30 June 2017. This differs to the calculation of age as at the start of support, where age is reported as at 31 December of the financial year in which the client first received SHS support (for reporting over the 6-year period), or as at 31 December for each financial year in analysis by financial year.
  2. Rank is recorded at discharge and is current as at 30 June 2017. One record is excluded from the analysis by rank for non-clients due to missing details.
  3. Operational experience is only counted for ex-serving ADF members hired on or after 1 January 1999, due to a change in the data collection approach on that date. The total used for percentages is 887 for ex-serving ADF SHS clients and 55,978 for ex-serving ADF non-clients. More information about the methodology for operational experience is in the Technical Notes.

Source: AIHW analysis of linked PMKeyS–SHSC data 2011–12 to 2016–17.

Profile at the start of support

The characteristics or circumstances of clients at the start of receiving SHS support were examined. SHS clients may have more than 1 support period during a reporting year, and may present with different characteristics in these different supporting periods. Data reported as at the start of support in a year are taken from the earliest support period in that financial year, and from the first year of support when clients use services in multiple years. 

Age at the start of support

At the start of support, 41% of ex-serving ADF SHS clients were aged 25–34, and a further 29% were aged 35–44 (Figure 2). This reflects, in part, the contemporary nature of the analysis population, as ex-serving members with service since 2001 are likely to have a younger age profile than the broader population of ex-serving ADF members. The results for age at the start of support were similar for ex-serving men and women. 

Among Australian SHS clients, 29% were aged 17 years and under at the start of support, which reflects the fact that clients of any age can receive homelessness services (AIHW 2019). Approximately 1 in 5 Australian SHS clients were in each of the following age groups: 25–34 (19%); 35–44 (18%); and 45 and over (20%).

Location of SHS agency

Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) ex-serving ADF SHS clients accessed services from a SHS agency located in a major city, and 42% from an agency in a regional or remote location (Figure 2). The results were similar for Australian SHS clients—62% accessed services from a SHS agency located in a major city, and 38% accessed services in a regional or remote location (AIHW 2019).

Ex-serving men (59%) were more likely than ex-serving women (54%) to access services in a major city. Most ex-serving ADF SHS clients accessed services from a SHS agency located in Victoria (35%), Queensland (24%) or New South Wales (18%; Table 5). Among Australian SHS clients, services were accessed most commonly in Victoria (40%), New South Wales (25%) and Queensland (14%) (AIHW 2019).

Table 5: Ex-serving ADF SHS clients (2011–12 to 2016–17) and Australian SHS clients (2017–18), by state and territory location of SHS agency

States and territories

Ex-serving ADF SHS clients (%)

Australian SHS clients (%)

NSW

18

25

Vic

35

40

Qld

24

14

WA

7

8

SA

6

7

Tas

4

2

ACT

4

1

NT

4

3

Total number of clients

1,215

288,795

Note: The sum of the proportions of SHS clients in each state and territory is greater than 100% as some clients sought services from multiple SHS agencies in different locations. 

Sources: AIHW analysis of linked PMKeyS–SHSC data 2011–12 to 2016–17 (Ex-serving ADF SHS clients); AIHW Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2017–18 (Australian SHS clients).

Housing situation

When a person presents to a SHS agency at the start of support, their housing situation is categorised as either being ‘homeless’ or ‘at risk of homelessness’. Clients are categorised as homeless if they are: living in non-conventional accommodation; sleeping rough; or living in short-term or emergency accommodation. Clients are categorised as being at risk of homelessness if they are currently living in accommodation but are: at risk of losing their accommodation; or experiencing 1 or more factors that can contribute to homelessness. A small proportion of clients may also have their housing situation recorded as ‘not stated’ at the start of support if their housing situation is unknown. 

Among the 1,082 ex-serving ADF SHS clients whose housing situation was known at the start of support, 46% (495) were homeless and 54% (587) were at risk of homelessness. The results for Australian SHS clients at the start of support were similar—43% were homeless at the start of support, and 57% were at risk of homelessness (AIHW 2019).
Ex-serving men were more likely to be homeless than ex-serving women at the start of support. Among the 855 ex-serving men who were SHS clients and whose housing situation was known, 50% were homeless, and 50% were at risk of homelessness. Among the 227 ex-serving women who were SHS clients and whose housing situation was known, 29% were homeless, and 71% were at risk of homelessness.

Living arrangement

Of the 1,082 ex-serving ADF SHS clients whose living situation was known at the start of support, 49% lived alone, 16% were single parents with children and 13% lived as a couple with children (Figure 2). 

Some differences emerged in the living arrangements of ex-serving men (858 whose status was known) and women (224 whose status was known) seeking SHS:

  • 56% of men lived alone, compared with 21% of women. 
  • 46% of women lived as a single parent with 1 or more children, compared with 8% of men.

These differences in living situations between men and women were also evident in the results for Australian SHS clients, although the size of the difference was smaller:

  • 40% of men lived alone, compared with 23% of women.
  • 41% of women lived as a single parent with children, compared with 25% of men. 

Presenting unit type

Presenting unit type indicates if clients first presented to a SHS agency by themselves, or accompanied by their partner, children or a group of other family and friends (Figure 2). At the start of support, 84% of the 1,214 ex-serving ADF SHS clients whose presenting type was known presented alone. 

Some differences emerged in how ex-serving men (940 clients whose status was known) and women (274) first presented to a SHS agency:

  • A higher proportion of men (85%) presented to a SHS agency alone, compared with women (78%).
  • Women were more likely to present with 1 or more children (17%) than men (2%).

Figure 2: Demographic profile of ex-serving ADF SHS clients at the start of support, 2011–12 to 2016–17

This bar chart shows the demographic and service profile of ex-serving ADF SHS clients at the start of support. Most clients were aged 25–34 (41%25) or 35–44 (29%25); 58%25 accessed SHS from an agency in a major city; 49%25 lived alone; and 84%25 presented to a SHS agency alone.

Notes

  1. Age is calculated using information from the PMKeyS data. Age at the start of support is calculated as at 31 December of the financial year in which a client first received SHS support.
  2. Location of SHS agency is assigned using the Australian Bureau of Statistics classification, Australian Statistical Geography Standard, 2011. Other refers to all areas that are not classified as Major cities (i.e. areas classified as inner regional, outer regional, remote and very remote).
  3. The percentages for living arrangement have been calculated using the total number of clients as denominator (1,082), excluding those whose situation was not stated.
  4. The percentages for presenting unit type have been calculated using the total number of clients as denominator (1,214), excluding those whose presenting unit type was not stated.

Source: AIHW analysis of linked PMKeyS–SHSC data 2011–12 to 2016–17; Table S2.

References

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019. Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18. Cat. no. HOU 299. Canberra: AIHW.