Media Release by Senator the Hon Mark Arbib

New specialist homeless data to improve accuracy and service delivery

Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness Mark Arbib has today welcomed the launch of the new Specialist Homelessness Services data collection which will provide a better picture of homelessness and a better guide for governments and community organisations in addressing homelessness.

Senator Arbib said the new data collection service, jointly funded by the Australian Government and the State and Territory Governments, replaced the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP) collection and provided improved data and more timely information including:

  • Reporting individual client interactions, rather than support periods;
  • Counting children as individual clients in their own right;
  • Providing a range of detailed information including causes of homelessness, and other needs, including mental health issues;
  • Whether the client has previously experienced homelessness;
  • Collecting data from all government-funded homelessness services, not just supported accommodation services; and
  • Transitions out of homeless shelters into housing.

“Currently, the national data collection holds 1,559 specialist homelessness agencies records, but this figure is likely to increase over time,” Senator Arbib said.

“The new collection will provide more accurate information on homelessness around Australia by focusing on people’s experiences of homelessness.

“It’s extremely important that we better understand how people came to be homeless and their pathways out of homelessness so that we can improve the way we respond to help prevent homelessness and intervene early.

“I recognise the significant effort of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which has worked to build a strong partnership with all states and territories in boosting national reporting for homelessness.

“I also commend the sector and State and Territory Governments for working collaboratively with AIHW in this major change process and for their close involvement in training and promotion of the new data collection to homelessness services.

“I look forward to the first reports from new system in early 2012 to build our knowledge base and understanding of homelessness.”

Senator Arbib said as homelessness was often hidden, with people sleeping in cars or at friends’ houses, it was critical that the government continued to work to build up our data and our understanding of homelessness.

“The Government remains committed to its ambitious plan of halving the rate of homelessness and to providing assisted accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it by 2020.

“There is more to do to ensure that as a community we are better addressing homelessness and I am proud that as a Federal Government we have invested almost $5 billion in additional funding for homelessness since 2008.”

In addition to providing better homelessness information, the new data collection will help measure targets under the Australian Government’s White Paper, The Road Home, as well as performance under the National Affordable Housing Agreement and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

The first results of the new collection are anticipated to be available in early 2012.