Almost 156,000 Australians received disability support services funded under the Commonwealth State/Territory Disability Agreement in the first six months of 2003, a new report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found.
Disability Support Services 2002-03 is the first AIHW report based on the redeveloped Commonwealth State/Territory Disability Agreement National Minimum Data Set (CSTDA NMDS) collection. Unlike previous reports which focused on 'snapshot' data from a single day, this report focuses on all service users during the first six months of 2003.
The 156,000 users of disability support services accessed services provided by more than 10,000 service type outlets nation-wide. There were five main service type groupings provided by these outlets - accommodation support, community support, community access, respite and employment services.
Just over a quarter of service users (26%) accessed more than one service type outlet over the six months. The most common combination of services accessed over the six-month period was that of accommodation support and community access services.
In other findings, 59% of service users were male and 3.2% identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. The most commonly reported primary disability group was intellectual, reported by 44% of all service users, followed by physical (14%) and psychiatric disabilities (12%).
Report co-author Phil Anderson said that for the first time, the 2002-03 CSTDA NMDS collected information about informal carers which is the subject of a new chapter in the report.
'Around 44% of service users indicated that they had an informal carer-an unpaid carer such as a family member, friend or neighbour, providing care and assistance on a regular, sustained basis,' Dr Anderson said.
'Younger service users were much more likely to report having a carer, with 77% aged under 15 years and 48% aged 15-24 years having a carer, compared to 28-36% of service users in other age groups.'
Dr Anderson said those people with an informal carer required much greater assistance in activities of daily living, including self-care, mobility or communication.
'39% reported always needing support with such activities compared with 21% without carers. And more than four-fifths with informal carers reported that their carer assisted them with at least one of these activities.'
Just over two-thirds (68%) of informal carers were reported to be the mother of a service user, much higher than the second most commonly reported relationship - fathers (6%).
The highest proportion of carers was in the 25-44 year age group (41%), followed by 45-64 years (32%). A further 10% of carers were aged over 65 years.