Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 05 July 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20
Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 11 December 2020, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020 [cited 2022 Jul. 5]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2020, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2019-20, viewed 5 July 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/shs-annual-report-2019-20
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Care and protection orders (CPOs) are legal orders or arrangements that place some responsibility for a child’s welfare with child protection authorities. In Australia, state and territory governments are responsible for child protection and these departments assist vulnerable children and young people to protect them from abuse, neglect or other harm or where their parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection (AIHW 2020).
Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, the rate of children on care and protection orders increased from 9.1 per 1,000 children to 10.5 per 1,000 children (AIHW 2020). Of the 59,100 children on care and protection orders at 30 June 2019, most were living in home-based care, either with relative/kinship carers (39%) or in foster care (29%). While many children are moved into out-of-home care, others remain living at home with family support provided by community-based agencies.
Pathways into homelessness for children on care and protection orders are complex. For example, children and young people who are exposed to persistent violence, abuse and neglect in their family homes but are not removed by child protection authorities may become homeless, as they are no longer prepared to live in these households (Noble-Carr & Trew 2018). Children with unsatisfactory foster care arrangements can either voluntarily move out of their foster home into homelessness or can be placed in residential care settings by child protection authorities.
Family and domestic violence is one of the main reasons that families at risk of homelessness seek assistance from SHS agencies. It is also one of the leading reasons for statutory intervention, indicating that child protection and SHS agencies often work with the same families and children (MICAH Projects 2016). Linked data has been used to describe the characteristics of children and young people who received both child protection (an investigated notification, care and protection order or out-of-home care) and specialist homelessness services (SHS) (AIHW 2016). Compared with children who accessed only SHS, children who accessed both child protection and SHS were more likely to have experienced family and domestic violence (54%, compared with 44%). For more information about children on care and protection orders, see Child protection Australia 2018–19.
Two of the national priority cohorts for homelessness identified in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, which came into effect on 1 July 2018 (CFFR 2018), potentially involve children on care and protection orders: children and young people and those exiting institutions and care into homelessness (see Policy section for more information).
A client is reported as being under a care and protection order (CPO) if they are aged under 18 and have provided any of the following information in any support period during the reporting period.
They reported that they were under a CPO and had the following care arrangements:
They have reported ‘transition from foster care/child safety residential placements’ as a reason for seeking assistance or the main reason for seeking assistance.
For more information, see Technical information.
In 2019–20 (Table CPO.1):
Number of clients
Proportion of all clients
Rate (per 10,000 population)
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2015–16 to 2019–20.
In 2019–20, of clients on a CPO (Supplementary table CPO.1):
In 2019–20, 1 in 3 children on a CPO identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (36% or almost 3,100 clients) (Supplementary Table CPO.8), higher than the overall SHS Indigenous proportion (27%).
In 2019–20 (Supplementary table CPO.2):
Children on a CPO may face additional vulnerabilities that make them more susceptible to becoming homeless, in particular family and domestic violence, a current mental health issue and problematic drug and/or alcohol use. These vulnerabilities are only assessed in clients aged 10 and over.
In 2019–20, of the nearly 3,600 clients on a CPO who were aged 10 and over, 2 in 3 (70%) reported experiencing one or more of these vulnerabilities (Table CPO.2):
Family and domestic violence
Mental health issue
Problematic drug and
or alcohol use
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection 2019–20.
At the beginning of the first support period almost half (47%) of all children on a CPO presented to services experiencing homelessness, with 53% at risk of homelessness (Supplementary table CLIENTS.12).
Length of support (median number of days)
Average number of support periods per client
Proportion receiving accommodation
Median number of nights accommodated
More than half of the children on a CPO (57% or 5,000 clients) were returning clients (Supplementary table CPO.7), having received assistance from a SHS agency at some point since the collection began in 2011–12. Returning clients were more likely than new clients to be aged 10–17 (43%, compared with 38%), conversely new clients were more likely to be aged 0–9 years (62% compared with 57% of returning clients).
In 2019–20, the main reasons for seeking assistance among children on a CPO were (Supplementary table CPO.5):
Family and domestic violence was the most common reason for seeking assistance for both homeless and at risk children on CPO, though the proportion was much higher for children at risk (46% or nearly 1,900 clients, compared with 28% or nearly 1,100) (Supplementary table CPO.6).
Similar to the overall SHS population, most children on a CPO needed general services that were provided by SHS agencies including advice/information, advocacy/liaison on behalf of client and other basic assistance (Supplementary table CPO.3).
Apart from these, the most common services needed by children on a CPO were:
Children on a CPO were also more likely than the overall SHS population to need services including:
The majority (85%) of children on a CPO had a case management plan. However, only 14% of those with a case management plan achieved all the set goals. The proportion of children on a CPO who achieved all case management goals was lower than that in the overall SHS population (21%) (Supplementary table CLIENTS.35).
Outcomes presented here describe the change in clients’ housing situation between the start and end of support. Data is limited to clients who ceased receiving support during the financial year—meaning that their support periods had closed and they did not have ongoing support at the end of the year.
Many clients had long periods of support or even multiple support periods during 2019–20. They may have had a number of changes in their housing situation over the course of their support. These changes within the year are not reflected in the data presented here, rather the client situation at the start of their first support period in 2019–20 is compared with the end of their last support period in 2019–20. A proportion of these clients may have sought assistance prior to 2019–20, and may again in the future.
At the end of the reporting period in 2019–20:
These trends demonstrate that by the end of support, many clients have achieved or progressed towards a more positive housing solution. That is, clients ending support in public or community housing (renter or rent-free) or private or other housing (renter or rent-free) had increased compared with the start of support.
Beginning of support
Beginning of support
No shelter or improvised/inadequate dwelling
Short term temporary accommodation
House, townhouse or flat - couch surfer or with no tenure
Public or community housing - renter or rent free
Private or other housing - renter, rent free or owner
Total at risk
Total clients with known housing situation
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection. Supplementary table CPO.4.
In 2019–20, 4,600 children on a CPO had a known housing status at both the start and end of support. Of these clients, more than 2,500 clients were at risk of homelessness at the start of support. By the end of support (Figure CPO.1):
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection, 2019–20
For clients who were known to be homeless at the start of support (just over 2,100 clients) (Figure CPO.2):
Source: Specialist Homelessness Services Collection, 2019–20
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2016. Vulnerable young people: interactions across homelessness, youth justice and child protection—1 July 2011 to 30 June 2015. Cat. no. HOU 279. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2020. Child protection Australia 2018–19. Cat. no. CWS 75. Canberra: AIHW.
CFFR (Council on Federal Financial Relations) 2018. National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. Viewed 3 October 2019.
MICAH Projects 2016. Families caught in the homelessness and child protection cycle: a supportive housing model for keeping families together. Brisbane: Common Ground Queensland.
Noble-Carr D & Trew S 2018. Nowhere to go: investigating homelessness experiences of 12–15 year olds in the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra: Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University.
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