Children on care and protection orders

Care and protection orders (CPOs) are legal orders or arrangements that place some responsibility for a child’s welfare with child protection authorities. They set up arrangements to provide support and assistance to children and young people to protect them from abuse, neglect and other harm, or where their parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection [1].

Children on a care and protection order: trends over time

Since the beginning of the SHS collection in 2011–12 the number of children on a care and protection order seeking assistance has been decreasing. Key trends identified over this time have been:

  • CPO clients make up a small proportion of the SHS client population, and this group has been decreasing on average by 10% each year.
  • The proportion of CPO clients receiving accommodation has been steadily decreasing, but the length of accommodation for those receiving accommodation has been increasing.
  • In general, the proportion of these CPO client groups with a case management plan has increased since 2011–12 however, the proportion achieving all case management goals has not increased in parallel and this group remains one of the lowest achieving groups in the SHS population by this measure.

Table 1: Children (0–17 years) on a care and protection order: at a glance—trends over time

  2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15
Number of clients (proportion of all clients) 2,681 (1%) 2,146 (1%) 2,205 (1%) 1,970 (1%)
Rate (per 10,000 population) 1.2 0.9 1.0 0.8
Housing situation at the beginning of first support period (all clients)
Homeless: At risk of homelessness 52%: 48% *51%: 49% 52%: 48% 51%: 49%
Living arrangement
Lone person 24% 26% 22% 20%
Sole parent 18% 20% 23% 24%
Couple with child/ren 9% 8% 9% 11%
Couple without children 3% 4% 3% 2%
Other family 30% 27% 28% 30%
Other group 16% 16% 16% 13%
Main reason for seeking assistance (Top 3)
Domestic and family violence 15% 12% 11% 17%
Transition from foster care and child safety residential placements 10% 13% 13% 13%
Relationship/family breakdown 17% 13% 15% 11%
Proportion receiving accommodation (median (nights)) 57% (40) 52% (40) *51% (46) 45% (52)
Number of support periods (average per client) 4,052 (1.5) 3,283 (1.5) 3,162 (1.4) 2,831 (1.4)
Average (median) length of support (days) 105 (49) 114 (57) *114 (63) 110 (64)
Proportion of a client group with a case management plan 71% *70% *79% 81%
Achievement of all case management goals 15% 13% *18% 17%


  1. Rates are crude rates based on the Australian estimated resident population (ERP) at 30 June of the reference year.

  2. * Indicates where previously published data have been revised to ensure consistent reporting over time. 2011–12 data were revised in December 2013 but not previously reported in this format.

  3. The denominator for the proportion achieving all case management goals is the number of client groups with a case management plan. Denominator values for proportions are provided in the relevant National supplementary table.

Source: Specialist homelessness services Annual Reports 2011–12, 2012–13, 2013–14 and 2014–15.

Characteristics of clients

  • In 2014–15, there were an estimated 1,970 children on a CPO who received assistance from specialist homelessness agencies.
  • CPO clients were more likely to be female (54%) and most female clients were aged 15–17 (45%).
  • Almost half the male CPO clients (46%) were aged between 0 and 9 years.

Services needed and provided

Children on a Care and Protection Order

were more likely to end support housed in public or community housing (31%) than the general SHS client population (22%).

The most common service needs identified for children on a CPO were (Table CPO.3):

  • transport (41%)
  • living skills/personal development (38%)
  • short-term or emergency accommodation (39%)
  • medium-term/transitional housing (34%).

CPO clients were more likely than other clients to be identified as needing assistance with transport and living skills than other SHS clients. Also, CPO clients needing assistance for short-term or emergency accommodation (39%) were also more likely to receive assistance for it (77% of those who identified a need for this type of accommodation) than all SHS clients (66%).

Housing outcomes

The most common form of housing at the beginning of support for clients on a CPO (who had closed support) was private or other housing (renter, rent free or owner) (29%), followed by short-term or emergency accommodation or house, townhouse or flat (couch surfer or with no tenure) (both 22%) (Table CPO.4).

At the end of support, clients on a CPO were most likely to be living in:

  • private or other housing (renter, rent free or owner) (32%)
  • public or community housing (31%).


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2015. Child protection Australia 2013–14. Child welfare series no. 61. Cat. no. CWS 52. Canberra: AIHW.