A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare provides a profile of children who attended Supported Accommodation and Assistance Program (SAAP) agencies with people who were homeless or at risk of being homeless.
The report, Accompanying Children (special collection), describes approximately 8000 visits by children accompanying adults to over half of the 1103 SAAP agencies, or just over two thirds of all agencies who supported children during the six-week survey period.
It shows that 19% of accompanying children were homeless for the month prior to SAAP support and approximately 2% of all accompanying children had not had a home at all in the previous 12 months.
Around 60% had lived in two or more homes in the year prior to attending the agency. In metropolitan areas 40% had moved three times or more.
The report also shows most of the accompanying children were involved in a legal process of some sort when they came to the agency and 68% were subject to protection or guardianship orders.
Report co-author Gloria Jackson said that a large variety of social, relationship and health issues were either experienced or witnessed by the children
'For example, nationally, 67% witnessed domestic violence, and around 16% of the children had experienced physical abuse. Emotional abuse or neglect, crisis, trauma, grief, and behavioural problems were an issue in around one-third of all cases.'
'The most common health complaint was anxiety, which was a factor in around one-quarter of the children. Another leading health-related issue for about one-fifth of the children was substance abuse of the parent.'
The report also found that 18% of accompanying children were involved in immigration issues. This was particularly noticeable with children accompanying women escaping domestic violence.
More than half of all accompanying children supported by SAAP were under six years of age, and were most likely to come from one-child families (50%) and single parent families (54%).
Support services provided by agencies ranged from supported accommodation, transport, advocacy, advice, information and education to child care, financial assistance, medical services, counselling, and provision of anger management and social skills.
Over 90% of the children's needs were met by or through SAAP agencies.