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Australian governments fund a range of disability support services under the National Disability Agreement (NDA) and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). These services are intended to improve the lives of people with disability, and their carers, and ensure that they have the opportunity to participate in the community.

Data on the services provided under the NDA are collected in the Disability Services National Minimum Data Set (DS NMDS) .

A snapshot of the latest statistics on disability support service users from the DS NMDS is provided below.

In 2011–12, around 317,600 people received disability support services, an increase of 29% since 2007–08.

Line chart showing years (2007-08 to 2011-12) on the x axis; number ('000s) (240 to 320) on the y axis.

People may use services from more than one service group. Forty-three per cent of people who used disability support services used ‘Community support’ services to help them live in a non-institutional setting. This and employment services (42%) were the most common service groups used. 

Vertical bar chart showing service group on the x axis; percent (0 to 50) on the y axis

Age and sex of disability support service users

More than half (59%) of all service users in 2011–12 were male, and 41% were female. These proportions have remained fairly stable since at least 2007–08.

Nearly one third of disability support service users were aged 25–44 (30%), 27% were aged 45–64, and 24% were aged 0–17. The age distribution of service users has remained relatively stable over time, at an average age of around 34 years since 2007–08.

Stacked line chart showing for ages (0-17, 18-24, 25-44, 45-64, 65 plus); years (2007-08 to 2011-12) on the x axis; percent (0 to 35) on the y axis.

Disability groups

Intellectual disability is the most common disability among specialist disability service users, at one-third (33%) of all services users in 2011–12. However the relative proportion has been decreasing in recent years, compared with physical and psychiatric disability.

(for more information on service users with a psychiatric disability, see  Mental health services in Australia).

5 most common disability groups (primary or other significant disability) of disability support service users, 2011–12 (per cent)

Horizontal bar chart showing percent (0 to 35) on the x axis; 5 most common disability groups on the y axis.

Most service users required at least some assistance with the activities of daily living (52%), activities of independent living (61%) and activities in work, education and community living (57%).

Indigenous service users

Around 16,900 disability support service users, or 6% of all service users in 2011–12, were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. Of Indigenous service users in 2011–12:

  • most were aged under 50 (14,200 or 84% of Indigenous service users), compared with 75% of non-Indigenous service users
  • 60% were male, about the same as non-Indigenous service users (59%)
  • 37% had an intellectual disability, 32% had a physical disability and 24% had a psychiatric disability, similar to non-Indigenous service users (35%, 33% and 29%, respectively)
  • 15% were employed, compared with 25% of non-Indigenous service users
  • community support was the most commonly used service group (55%, compared with 43% of non-Indigenous service users), followed by employment services (36%, compared with 45% of non-Indigenous service users).

Culturally and linguistically diverse service users

The majority of disability support service users were born in Australia (87%), 9% were born in a predominantly non-English speaking country and 4% in a predominantly English-speaking country. The proportion of Australian-born service users was higher than the proportion of those who were Australian-born in the overall population (73%).

The proportions of Australian-born and overseas-born service users have remained relatively steady over time, with a slight decrease in Australian-born service users and a slight increase in those born in a predominantly non-English-speaking country.

Further information

Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2011-12

DS NMDS data cubes