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Specialist homelessness services have seen a rise in client numbers in recent years, with a higher proportion of clients receiving assistance due to domestic and family violence, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Specialist homelessness services 2015–16, shows that national client numbers reached over 279,000 in 2015–16 (up from nearly 256,000 in 2014–15).

Of those, 106,000 (38%) sought support due to domestic and family violence.

'This is a 33% increase since 2011–12, when the collection began, and a 14% increase since 2014–15,' said AIHW spokesperson Anna Ritson.

Growth in the number of clients seeking support due to domestic and family violence outpaced growth in overall client numbers (which grew by 9% between 2014–15 and 2015–16).

'It is important to note that increases in client numbers generally reflect the increased availability and accessibility of services, not necessarily a change in the underlying level of homelessness or domestic and family violence in Australia,' Ms Ritson said.

The report shows that close to half of clients experiencing domestic and family violence in 2015–16 were single parents, and over three-quarters were female.

Overall, Indigenous clients continued to be over represented among clients of homelessness services, with 1 in 4 clients (or about 61,700) identifying as Indigenous—higher than the rate among the general population of 1 in 33.

Housing affordability continues to be a significant factor for those accessing homelessness services—around 60% of clients identified housing affordability and financial difficulties as a reason for seeking assistance, and this has remained fairly steady for the past 3 years.

'And for over 20% of clients, mental health, medical issues or substance use were among the reasons for seeking specialist homelessness support,' Ms Ritson said.

The report also shows that an increasing proportion of clients are now aged over 45.

'Clients in this age group now represent around 1 in 5 of all clients—an increase of 6,500 clients compared with the previous year,' Ms Ritson said.

Canberra, 15 December 2016

Further information: Anna Ritson, AIHW, Tel. 02 6244 1293. mob. 0418 271 395 

Full web report: Specialist homelessness services 2015–16