Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Specialist homelessness services annual report 2020–21, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 30 November 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Specialist homelessness services annual report 2020–21. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Specialist homelessness services annual report 2020–21. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 07 October 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Specialist homelessness services annual report 2020–21 [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Nov. 30]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2020–21, viewed 30 November 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report
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Specialist homelessness services (SHS) in Australia supported, on average, an estimated 69,500 people each day in 2020–21. However, there were also people who approached agencies who were unable to be offered any assistance (unassisted requests for service) or who did not receive all the services that they required (client’s unmet need for services).
It is important to note that these figures reflect people who approach SHS agencies for support and do not measure the population level unmet demand for support. Results from the 2014 General Social Survey suggest that of those who had experienced homelessness in the last 10 years, approximately 67% did not seek assistance (ABS 2014).
For those that do approach a SHS agency, there may be a range of reasons an agency cannot provide assistance. For example, the person may be seeking a specialised service not offered by that particular agency, the agency may not have the capacity to provide assistance at that time or the person may not be in the target group for the agency. An Australian Council of Social Service survey found that, in 2019, 76% of staff in housing and homelessness services reported an increase in the number of clients they were unable to support and 36% reported rarely or never being able to meet demand (ACOSS 2019).
Key findings – Unassisted requests for services
Identifying unassisted requests for services in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)
Unassisted requests for services are instances where a person requests assistance from a SHS agency and receives no assistance at the time of request. The information required by the SHSC is limited as it is not always appropriate for an agency to collect the same detailed information as they would if the person was to become a client.
Importantly, for some central intake models, the role of intake agencies is to identify and link clients to an agency well suited to the individual client's needs. This may decrease the number of unassisted requests for services for jurisdictions operating central intake services.
See Technical information for more information on measuring unassisted requests in the SHSC.
Across Australia, there were around 114,000 unassisted requests in 2020–21.
Some key trends in unassisted requests since 2016–17 include:
Analysis of how often a person requested assistance and how many later became SHS clients can only be examined and understood where the statistical linkage key (SLK) was complete and valid (around 52% of all unassisted requests). Of the valid data, in 2020–21 on average each unassisted person approached an agency 1.7 times (Historical data table HIST.UNASSISTED).
In 2020–21, 47% of people with a valid SLK later went on to become clients and received services during the year, similar to 2019–20 (48%). The future service use experience for the remaining 53% were unknown; they may have received assistance from a non-SHS service, used their own support networks or continued to experience unstable housing or homelessness. Alternatively, these people may go on to become clients in future years.
Key findings – Clients’ unmet need for services
Clients receiving support from SHS agencies often need a wide range of services. Some needs arise more than once in a support period and this makes it difficult to assess the extent to which the need has been met from the available data.
Reporting unmet need for services in the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC)
Unmet need is recorded when an SHS client has some, but not all, their identified needs for services met. Agencies can also refer clients to another service for assistance.
More than half (60%) of all clients needed at least one type of accommodation service (Figure UNASSISTED.1 and Supplementary table CLIENTS.23):
Agencies were able to meet the general needs of most clients. For example, of the over 217,600 clients who needed advice/information, 98% were provided assistance, and of the more than 154,200 clients requesting advocacy/liaison, 96% were provided with assistance (Supplementary table CLIENTS.23).
Other types of client needs were less commonly met. For example, among those SHS clients who required professional legal services (3.0% or more than 8,200 clients), the level of unmet need was substantial, around 26% at the end of support. This may be because of the specialist skills required to provide legal services and the limited availability of these skills within the SHS agencies and other referral services offered to clients.
The level of unmet need for broad groups of specialised services can be determined (Figure UNASSISTED.2 and Supplementary table CLIENTS.23):
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2014. General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014. ABS Cat. no. 4159.0. Canberra: ABS.
ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service) 2019. Demand for Community Services Snapshot December 2019. Sydney: ACOSS.
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