The number of people using disability support services increased from 188,000 to 245,700, between 2003-04 and 2007-08, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
'This represents a 31% increase in service users over the four years,' said Nick Thompson of the AIHW's Functioning and Disability Unit.
Over the same four years, total government spending on specialist disability services increased in real terms by 22%.
Of the different types of services available, respite and employment services had the highest increases in service users, at 53% and 40% respectively over the period.
According to the report, Disability support services 2007-08, about 31,500 people used respite services in 2007-08.
'Use of respite services has grown from 96 users per 1,000 people in the target population in 2003-04 to 137 users per 1,000 in 2007-08,' Mr Thompson said.
Government spending per respite service user fell by 16% over the period, although total expenditure on respite rose by 29%.
Close to 11,000 outlets delivered services funded under the Commonwealth State/Territory Disability Agreement in 2007-08-an increase of almost 25% since 2003-04.
The report also found that specialist disability employment services were provided almost entirely by non-government organisations and three-quarters of people who received state and territory-funded services accessed those services through non-government organisations.
Intellectual disability continues as the most frequent primary disability, accounting for around one-third of service users in 2007-08. The service user population is ageing and of growing cultural diversity.
Over 112,000 people who used specialist disability services in 2007-08 also had a personal carer, with nearly 60% of these carers being the mothers of the service user.