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A variety of government and non-government services are available to people with disability in Australia. Government-funded services have commonly been provided under the National Disability Agreement (NDA) but many of these will progressively transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

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 2015–16, around 331,800 people received disability support services, a 1% decrease from that reported in 2014–15. This number is an underestimate as the Australian Capital Territory government did not provide data to the DS NMDS in 2015–16 (see Disability support services: services provided under the National Disability Agreement 2015–16 for more information).

People may use services from more than one service group. Forty-five 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 (44%) were the most common service groups used.

Disability support service users by service group, 2015–16

Horizontal bar chart showing service group (respite, accomodation support, community access, employment, community support) on the y axis; per cent (0 to 50) on the x axis.  

Age and sex

More than half (59%) of all service users in 2015–16 were male, and 41% were female.

The average (mean) age of service users was 35.

The overall sex and age distribution of service users has remained relatively steady over time.

Male Female All service users
Mean age (years)
2011–12 31.6 37.2 33.9
2012–13 31.3 37.0 33.6
2013–14 31.4 37.2 33.7
2014–15 32.1 37.9 34.5
2015–16 32.4 38.3 34.9
Per cent
2011–12 59.1 40.9 100.0
2012–13 59.1 40.9 100.0
2013–14 59.2 40.8 100.0
2014–15 58.9 41.1 100.0
2015–16 58.7 41.3 100.0

Disability group

In 2015–16, 32% of service users had a physical disability, 29% had a psychiatric disability and 28% had an intellectual disability.

Disability group (primary or other significant disability) of disability support service users, 2015–16

Horizontal bar chart showing per cent (0 to 40) on the x axis; disability group on the y axis.

Need for assistance in life areas

Most service users required at least some assistance with the activities of daily living (65%), activities of independent living (78%) and activities of work, education and community living (84%).

Indigenous service users

Around 19,300 disability support service users, or 6% of all service users in 2015–16, were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. Of Indigenous service users in 2015–16:

  • most were aged under 50 (16,300 or 84% of Indigenous service users), compared with 71% of non-Indigenous service users
  • 60% were male, about the same as non-Indigenous service users (59%)
  • 34% had an intellectual disability, 33% had a physical disability and 28% had a psychiatric disability, similar to non-Indigenous service users (30%, 34% and 31%, respectively)
  • around one-third (32%) were not in the workforce, over half were in the workforce but unemployed (79%) and 21% were employed, compared with 30%, 66% and 34% of non-Indigenous service users, respectively
  • community support was the most commonly used service group (54%, compared with 44% of non-Indigenous service users), followed by employment services (37%, compared with 46% of non-Indigenous service users).

Culturally and linguistically diverse service users

The majority of disability support service users in 2015–16 were born in Australia (86%), 10% were born in a predominantly non-English speaking country and 4% in a predominantly English-speaking country.

Remoteness

In 2015–16, the majority of service users lived in a Major city (66%). Twenty-three per cent lived in an Inner regional area, 10% lived in an Outer regional area, and 1% lived in a Remote or very remote area.

The distribution of service users across remoteness areas differed for Indigenous and non-Indigenous service users, consistent with the patterns for the broader Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. For example, in 2015–16, a much lower proportion (39%) of Indigenous service users lived in a Major city compared with 67% of non-Indigenous service users, and a much higher proportion (11%) lived in a Remote or very remote area compared with non-Indigenous service users (1%).

Further information