New data reveals growing demand for homelessness services in New South Wales
Data released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has confirmed the unprecedented demand faced by Specialist Homelessness Services (SHSs) with SHSs seeing almost 70,000 clients in 2015/16.
The AIHW has today released the Specialist homelessness services 2015/2016 report which describes the characteristics of clients of specialist homelessness services, the services requested, outcomes achieved, and unmet requests for services during 2015–16.
The AIHW data has identified that SHSs in New South Wales provided support to approximately 69,715 clients in 2015/16, an increase of 35% from 2013-14 figures (n=51,787). Across the SHS Program in NSW, in 2015/16 SHSs were contracted to provide support to 57,000 clients -meaning services are currently supporting 20% more clients than they are contracted to. This is a major issue in terms of delivering quality services to people experiencing homelessness and in terms of managing, supporting and retaining the SHS workforce.
The data also reveals that in New South Wales 45,240 people sought accommodation support from SHSs, an increase of 39 percent in 2013-2014 (n= 32,578). Significantly SHSs were unable to provide accommodation assistance for over 34% (n=15,241) of those that sought it.
There was also an 84% increase in the number of people seeking assistance who had been couch surfing (n= 10,810) and a 65% increase in the number of people seeking assistance who had been in private rental (n = 22,012) from 2013/14 to 2015/16. Furthermore, of the 31, 280 clients who required long term housing, 62% of these did not have this provided or referred (n=19,256).
These figures reflect both that affordable housing is contributing to homelessness and that services are unable to provide the key outcome for clients – long term housing – due to the lack of available social housing and affordable housing in the private rental market.
“Services have reported unprecedented demand for their services and the data confirms this. The figures also highlight the impact of the housing affordability crisis in New South Wales on the most vulnerable. Homelessness will continue to rise in New South Wales and nationally unless governments urgently invest in the social housing system and appropriately resource Specialist Homelessness Services to meet the current demand” said Katherine McKernan, CEO of Homelessness NSW.
The AIHW data shows a major increase in the number of clients seeking assistance due to domestic and family violence. Over 23,171 clients sought assistance from SHSs after experiencing domestic and family violence, representing 33 per cent of the total amount of people seeking SHS support. This figure is an increase of 26 per cent from 2013-2014 figures.
“Increasing numbers of women and children who have experienced domestic and family violence are seeking assistance from Specialist Homelessness Services. But services are not being funded to keep up with this demand. Ensuring a resourced and funded SHS sector is vital to ensuring the safety of those escaping domestic and family violence” DVNSW’s CEO Moo Baulch said.
The AIHW data also shows a growing rate of both young and old people who are seeking assistance from SHSs. There was over 13,743 young people in between the ages 15-24 who presented alone to a SHS in NSW, an increase of 13 per cent from 2013-2014. At the other end of the age spectrum, the data shows a 55 per cent increase in people aged 55-64 requiring assistance.
“Despite reducing youth homelessness being one of the Premier’s identified key priorities, these figures show that young people are increasingly requiring support from Specialist Homelessness Services”. Yfoundations’ CEO Michael Coffey said.
Yfoundations is the peak body organisation representing youth homelessness in NSW.
Homelessness NSW is a peak not for profit organisation that works with its members to prevent and reduce homelessness across NSW. Its members include small, locally based community organisations, multiservice agencies with a regional reach and large state-wide service providers.
Domestic Violence NSW is the peak, statewide representative body for a diverse range of specialist domestic and family violence services in New South Wales.
Media can contact Ms Katherine McKernan on 0425 288 446 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.