By Irena Ceranic
Australians are accessing homelessness services in record numbers, and the proportion of people seeking support due to domestic and family violence has risen sharply, a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has shown.
The report found the overall number of people accessing the services was more than 279,000 in 2015-16, up from nearly 256,000 the previous year.
A total of 106,000 of those sought help due to domestic and family violence.
That is an increase of 14 per cent on the previous year, and 33 per cent since 2011-12.
AIHW spokeswoman Anna Ritson said the rise could be attributed to the availability of services and increased awareness.
“I think it’s important to note that while the proportion is increasing, it’s actually not representative of an increase to the level of homelessness, nor to the levels of family and domestic violence,” she said.
“I think what that indicates is that whenever you raise awareness of an issue, particularly issues around family and domestic violence, what we find is, across the board and not just limited to homelessness services, that these clients are more willing to seek assistance in those circumstances.”
Domestic violence impact.
The data used by the report does not distinguish between victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, however half of the clients affected by domestic violence in 2015-16 were single parents and more than three quarters were female.
Ms Ritson said it was difficult for the report to gauge whether services were able to cope with the increase in demand, but the data indicated the number of people turned away had declined.
“The number of ‘turnaways’ or requests for assistance that were unable to be met has actually fallen in recent years,” she said.
“So in 2013-14 for example there were around 154,000 requests that were unable to be met, and that has fallen to around 100,000 this year.”
Aboriginal people continued to be over-represented overall, with one in four of those seeking assistance identifying as Indigenous.
Housing affordability and financial difficulties were identified as the reason 60 per cent of people sought help.
“We also see people presenting for the service to help them remain in their current accommodation, so that might be assistance to sustain their tenancy, so to prevent evictions, but it also might be services to help them to not be foreclosed upon by their banks,” Ms Ritson said.
Twenty per cent of clients cited mental health, medical issues or substance use as the reason they needed help.
Ms Ritson said the report also showed there had been an increase in people aged over 45 turning to homelessness agencies.
“When we look at that particular population, we do see again issues of housing affordability coming in to play and I think certainly for older Australians they may have a lack of affordable options of course also if a husband or wife passes away,” she said.
“That can often make the burden of continuing to live in that particular house quite a challenge.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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