Disability support services used by over 300,000 Australians

04 July, 2014

In 2012-13, an estimated 312,539 Australians accessed disability support services, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, 'Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2012-13', presents information on the use of community support services (45 per cent of service users), employment services (41 per cent), community access services (18 per cent), accommodation support services (14 per cent) and respite services (12 per cent).

AIHW spokesperson Dr Pamela Kinnear said, "The report provides important contextual and baseline information as the disability policy and service delivery environment continues to evolve, particularly with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2013-14."

The number of service users generally increased over the 5 years to 2012-13-by 12 per cent between 2008-09 and 2012-13.

"However, we've seen growth in the use of services slow recently, with a slight drop of 2 per cent in the number of service users between 2011-12 and 2012-13," Dr Kinnear said. 

"This change in the number of service users was not evenly spread across jurisdictions or service groups and reflected both an actual decrease in service users in some jurisdictions and some changes in the way the data were collected or reported."

Users of disability support services are diverse. In 2012-13, 59 per cent were male, 87 per cent were Australian-born, 6 per cent were Indigenous Australians, and 54 per cent lived with their families.

The most commonly reported disability groups continued to be intellectual (32 per cent), physical (30 per cent) and psychiatric (27 per cent), though the proportion of service users with an intellectual disability dropped slightly over the 5 years to 2012-13.

Most service users required at least some assistance in one or more of three broad life areas- the activities of independent living (64 per cent); the activities of work, education and community living (61 per cent) and the activities of daily living (55 per cent).

The report also shows that spending on disability support services rose to $7.2 billion in 2012-13. This has risen in recent years-by 4 per cent between 2011-12 and 2012-13, and by 23 per cent since 2008-09, after adjusting for inflation.