Clients who have experienced family and domestic violence
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Family and domestic violence affects people of all ages, genders and backgrounds, but it predominantly affects women and children (AIHW 2022). In Australia, 1 in 6 women (17% or 1.6 million) and 1 in 16 men (6% or 548,000) have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or previous cohabiting partner since the age of 15 (ABS 2017). Approximately 2.5 million Australian adults (13%) experienced abuse during their childhood; the majority knew the perpetrator and experienced multiple incidents of abuse (ABS 2017).
Family and domestic violence is the main reason women and children leave their homes in Australia (AHURI 2021). SHS agencies provide a crisis response service for people who have to leave their home due to violence, yet data suggests that the pathway into stable, secure, long-term housing is challenging (Flanagan et al. 2019). SHS clients who have experienced family and domestic violence made up 39% of Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) clients in 2021–22 (Supplementary data table CLIENTS.39). Since 2011–12, the number of SHS clients who have experienced family and domestic violence increased by an annual average of 3.1% (Historical data table HIST.FDV).
In February 2019, the Australian Government announced $72.6 million for the Safe Places package to provide safe places for people affected by family and domestic violence. Safe Places was designed to provide new or expanded emergency and crisis accommodation for women and children experiencing family and domestic violence. The program aimed to build up to 760 safe places and assist up to 6,300 people escaping family and domestic violence each year (DSS 2020). An additional $100 million of funding for Safe Places over 5 years (2022–23 to 2026–27) was announced as part of the 2022–23 Budget to create 720 new accommodation places and support an additional 2,880 people annually (The Commonwealth of Australia 2022).
In March 2021, the Parliamentary inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence found that victim-survivors of violence often bear the costs for leaving the relationship, the family home and their community (HRSCSPLA 2021). The inquiry recommended federal, state and territory governments consider funding for emergency accommodation for people who use violence (perpetrators) in order to prevent victim-survivors being forced to flee their homes or continue residing in a violent home (HRSCSPLA 2021).
The National plan to end violence against women and children affirms that safe, affordable and accessible housing is key to ending violence against women and children (DSS 2022). Response objective 3 of the national plan is focussed on housing, specifically “Ensure women and children escaping violence have safe and secure housing, from crisis accommodation to longer-term, sustainable social housing”.
Women and children affected by family and domestic violence are a national priority cohort in the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, which came into effect on 1 July 2018 (CFFR 2018) (see Policy section for more information).
Reporting clients experiencing family and domestic violence in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)
In the SHSC, a client is reported as experiencing family and domestic violence if in any support period during the reporting period the client sought assistance as a result of physical or emotional abuse inflicted on the client by a family member or if as part of any support period a person required family or domestic violence assistance.
The SHSC had information on clients experiencing family and domestic violence of any age. Changes made to the SHSC separates victim and/or perpetrators support services provided to clients. However, for 2021–22, separation of the victim and perpetrator service information is not provided due to data quality concerns that are common in early years following implementation. For more information, see Technical information.
Data quality statement note
Caution should be used when comparing Victorian client numbers over recent years. A practice correction to how some family violence agencies were recording clients as well as a phased shift of family violence intake to non-SHS services may result in an overall decrease in FDV client numbers since 2017-18. For more information, see 2019–20 SHS Data Quality Statement and 2021–22 SHS Data Quality Statement.
In 2021–22 (Supplementary table FDV.1 and Historical table HIST.FDV):
- SHS agencies assisted around 108,000 clients (of any age) who experienced family and domestic violence, equating to 39% of all SHS clients.
- There was a decrease in the number of SHS clients who had experienced family and domestic violence (around 8,500 SHS clients) compared with 2020–21.
- The rate of SHS clients who experienced family and domestic violence was 41.9 per 10,000 population, a decrease from 47.4 in 2016–17.
Although the number of clients who had experienced family and domestic violence decreased between 2020–21 and 2021–22, since the start of the SHS collection in July 2011 the number of clients increased by an annual average of 3.1% (Historical data table HIST.FDV).
Figure FDV.1: Key demographics, SHS clients who have experienced family and domestic violence, 2021–22
Key demographics, SHS clients who have experienced family and domestic violence, 2021–22
This interactive image describes the characteristics of around 108,000 clients who have experienced family and domestic violence and received SHS support in 2021–22. Most clients were female, aged 25–44 years. More than a quarter were Indigenous. Victoria had the greatest number of clients and the Northern Territory had the highest rate of clients per 10,000 population. The majority of clients had previously been assisted by a SHS agency since July 2011. Most were at risk of homelessness at the start of support. Most were in major cities.
Presenting unit and Living arrangements
In 2021–22, clients who experienced family or domestic violence most commonly presented to a specialist homelessness agency for support alone (57% or almost 61,300 clients), or as a single parent with child/ren (40% or more than 43,100 clients) (Supplementary table CLIENTS.42).
Children experiencing family and domestic violence may seek SHS support with their family, or independently if fleeing the home. For children in particular, SHS support is critical to reduce the likelihood of a long-term experience/risk of homelessness (Kaleveld et al. 2018).
In 2021–22, of the almost 107,700 clients who experienced family and domestic violence and stated their living arrangement at the beginning of SHS support (Supplementary table CLIENTS.43):
- Nearly half (48% or almost 46,500 clients) were living as a single parent with one or more children
- Approximately 21% (or around 20,200 clients) were living alone
- Approximately 11,800 people (12%) were living with other family, which can mean a person with or without children living (in a couch surfing arrangement) with others.
New or returning clients
In 2021–22 (Supplementary table CLIENTS.40):
- Of the 107,700 SHS clients who experienced family and domestic violence, 38% were new SHS clients and 62% were returning clients who had previously been assisted by a SHS agency at some point since the collection began in July 2011. This does not necessarily mean that previously assisted SHS clients were experiencing family and domestic violence when they were previously supported.
- Of the new clients, 44% (18,100 clients) were aged under 18, 51% were aged 18–54, and 5.4% were aged 55 and over. By contrast, of the returning clients, fewer (around 19,100 clients or 29%) were under 18.
People who experience family and domestic violence may experience other vulnerabilities that may make them more prone to experiencing homelessness, such as a current mental health issue and/or problematic drug and/or alcohol use.
Figure FDV.2: Clients who have experienced family and domestic violence, by selected vulnerabilities, 2021–22
This interactive bar graph shows the number of SHS clients who have experienced family and domestic violence also experiencing additional vulnerabilities, including having a current mental health issue and problematic drug and/or alcohol use. The graph shows both the number of clients experiencing a single vulnerability only, as well as combinations of vulnerabilities, and presents data for each state and territory.
In 2021–22, SHS clients who had experienced family and domestic violence received a median of 66 days of support, up from 43 days in 2017–18, an average of 2.0 support periods per client, and a median of 33 nights of accommodation (Supplementary table CLIENTS.46).
In 2021–22, of those SHS clients who experienced family and domestic violence:
Approximately 68% identified family and domestic violence as the main reason for seeking SHS services, while a further 8.7% identified housing crisis (Supplementary table FDV.5).
- For clients presenting at risk of homelessness, the most common main reasons for seeking assistance were (Supplementary table FDV.6):
- family and domestic violence (75%)
- housing crisis (6.3%)
- financial difficulties (both 3.4%).
- For clients presenting as homeless, the most common main reasons for seeking assistance were:
- family and domestic violence (51%)
- housing crisis (14%)
- inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions (10%).
Services needed and provided
In 2021–22, 75,000 (70%) SHS clients who experienced family and domestic violence needed specific assistance for this reason, including therapeutic discussion or group sessions, counselling and specialised support services (Supplementary table FDV.2).
Figure FDV.3: Clients who experienced family or domestic violence, by services needed and provided, 2021–22
This interactive stacked horizontal bar graph shows the services needed by clients who have experienced family and domestic violence and their provision status. Advice/information was the most needed and most provided service. Long term housing was the least provided by need.
Outcomes presented here highlight the changes in clients’ housing situation at the start and end of support. That is, the place they were residing before and after they were supported by a SHS agency. The information presented is limited only to clients who have stopped receiving support during the financial year and who were no longer receiving ongoing support from a SHS agency. That is, information on client housing situations at the start of their first period of support during 2021–22 is compared with the end of their last period of support in 2021–22. As such, this information does not cover any changes to their housing situation during their support period.
For clients who experienced family and domestic violence in 2021–22, around 23,400 clients (39%) were experiencing homelessness at the start of support; 12,100 (20%) were in short-term temporary accommodation (Supplementary table FDV.3).
By the end of support, many clients who experienced family and domestic violence have achieved or progressed towards a more positive housing solution. That is, the number and/or proportion of 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 (Supplementary table FDV.4):
- More than 2 in 5 (42% or 8,900 clients) clients who experienced family and domestic violence and who were experiencing homelessness at the start of support were housed; and one-quarter were living in private rental accommodation (5,300 clients or 25%).
- For those at risk of homelessness, almost 9 in 10 (30,800 clients or 89%) were housed; mostly in private rental accommodation (21,200 clients or 61%).
Figure FDV.4: Housing situation for clients who have experienced family and domestic violence with closed support, 2021–22
This interactive Sankey diagram shows the housing situation (including rough sleeping, couch surfing, short term accommodation, public/community housing, private housing and institutional settings) of clients who have experienced family and domestic violence with closed support periods at first presentation and at the end of support. The diagram shows clients’ housing situation journey from start to end of support. Most clients started and ended support in private or other housing.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) Personal Safety, Australia ABS website.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Family, domestic and sexual violence, AIHW website, accessed 27 September 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia: continuing the national story 2019, AIHW website.
Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (2021) Housing, homelessness and domestic and family violence AHURI website, accessed 5 October 2021.
Boxall H, Morgan A and Brown R (2020) ‘The prevalence of domestic violence among women during the COVID-19 pandemic’, Statistical Bulletin no. 28, Australian Institute of Criminology.
Council on Federal Financial Relations (2018) National Housing and Homelessness Agreement, CFFR website, accessed 18 September 2019.
Department of Social Services (2022) National plan to end violence against women and children 2022-2032, DSS website, accessed 1 November 2022.
Department of Social Services (2020) Safe Places Emergency Accommodation Program (Safe Places), DSS website, accessed 15 June 2022.
Flanagan K, Blunden H, Valentine K and Henriette J (2019) ‘Housing outcomes after domestic and family violence’, AHURI Final Report 311, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, doi:10.18408/ahuri-4116101.
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs (2021) Inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence, HRSCSPLA website, accessed 5 October 2021.
Kaleveld L, Seivwright A, Box E, Callis Z and Flatau P (2018) Homelessness in Western Australia: A review of the research and statistical evidence, Government of Western Australia, Department of Communities, accessed 27 June 2019.
The Commonwealth of Australia (2022) ‘Women’s Budget Statement 2022–23’, Budget 2022–23, The Treasury website, accessed 13 October 2022.