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Age group 12 to 17 years

Material basics

The material circumstances of their family is a significant contributor to a young person’s health and wellbeing. Access to basic material needs such as adequate nutrition, healthcare and security of housing protects against the risks of ongoing disadvantage.

In general, young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds are at greater risk of poor health over their lifetime, including higher rates of illness, disability and death.1 Young people experiencing material deprivation, social exclusion or homelessness are also more likely to have poor mental health, high risk of alcohol and substance misuse and low educational and employment outcomes over the longer term.2,3

Overview and areas of concern

Some data is available on whether WA young people aged 12 to 17 years are provided with the material basics they need.

Overview

This indicator considers three key measures of socioeconomic disadvantage: financial disadvantage, social exclusion and homelessness and housing stress.

There is no agreed national definition of child poverty and it is not measured on a regular basis by any government department – state or federal.

In 2016, WA had the lowest proportion (11.4%) of children aged 0 to 14 years in the most excluded quintile of social exclusion compared to all other states and territories (excluding the ACT).

The rate of homelessness for WA young people aged 12 to 18 years has reduced from 46.8 per 10,000 population in 2006 to 35.5 per 10,000 population in 2016.

Areas of concern

It is estimated that in 2016, 17.0 per cent of WA children and young people aged 0 to 14 years were living in a household in poverty.

Children living in remote and very remote areas in WA had a very high risk of social exclusion.

In 2017–18, 802 young people aged 15 to 17 years presented alone to homelessness services in WA. Almost one-half (48.9%) of all WA children and young people seeking homelessness assistance in 2017–18 needed help due to family and domestic violence.

Further data and research is needed on poverty and social exclusion experienced by vulnerable groups, such as Aboriginal children and young people, CALD children and young people and LGBTI children and young people.

Measure: Living with financial disadvantage

It is well established that child poverty is a critical issue and that children and young people experiencing financial disadvantage are at greater risk of poor health and wellbeing outcomes in the short and long term.1

There are multiple measures of financial disadvantage including measures of material deprivation, relative income poverty and low-income families. These measure different aspects of financial disadvantage and provide different insights.

Financial disadvantage can affect young people in the family through reduced provision of appropriate housing, heating, nutrition and medical care.2 Young people from families under financial strain are also more likely to experience psychological or socio-emotional difficulties, behavioural problems, educational difficulties and mental health issues.3,4

Some young people have left the family home for various reasons and may need to be financially independent. These young people are at a very high risk of poverty as they often have lower levels of education and high rates of unemployment within an environment where there are a reducing number of entry-level jobs available.5

There is limited data available on financial disadvantage experienced by WA young people aged 12 to 17 years.

The following data reports on financial disadvantage in Australia and WA generally and where available for children and young people in Australia and WA.

Material deprivation

Most data on child poverty is calculated from household incomes.6 However, it is increasingly recognised that poverty rates and income measures do not take into account children and young people’s experiences and assume that children and young people in poor households are missing out on essentials. However, not all children and young people in poor families will go without, as many parents will deprive themselves of necessities while ensuring their children have what they need.

Deprivation measures take into account income, wealth and also expenditure, thus including households which may have higher expenses, perhaps due to health costs.7 Measures of deprivation or financial stress are therefore grounded in the living standards and experiences of people in poverty.8

A child-centred material deprivation approach measures whether children and young people do not have items or experiences that they want and are considered essential by their peers. These could include breakfast each day, appropriate clothing or ability to go on school excursions.9 It is therefore a measure of ‘missing out’ on essentials.10 A child-centred approach captures the attitudes, views and experiences of children and young people.

No data is currently available on WA young people’s experiences of material deprivation.

The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) developed a child deprivation index based on data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). The index uses indicators that ARACY has deemed critical to children and young people’s wellbeing through The Nest action agenda.

The index includes a deprivation rate for material basics incorporating financial security, access to basic goods, adequate food and water and adequate shelter and sanitation. A child was determined to be deprived if they were deprived in any indicator within that dimension.11 They concluded that 29.0 per cent of Australian six to seven years-old were deprived in material basics and 25.0 per cent of eight to nine year-olds and 10 to 11 year-olds.12 Data was not available for older age groups.

This analysis also concluded that around 20.0 per cent of Australian children (aged between six and 11 years) were living in financially insecure families.13

For more information on a child-centred approach to material deprivation refer:

Saunders P et al 2018, Material Deprivation and Social Exclusion Among Young Australians: A child-focused approach (SPRC Report 24/18), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) uses a material deprivation approach to define a household as being in financial stress if they experience four or more indicators of financial stress within a 12-month period. Common indicators of financial stress include an inability to heat their home, having to go without meals or an inability to pay for an unexpected expense.14

In 2015–16, 15.5 per cent of WA households were experiencing four or more indicators of financial stress compared to 14.9 per cent of Australian households.15

Some of the most commonly reported indicators of financial stress for WA households were the inability to afford a holiday for at least one week a year (23.8%), an inability to afford a night out once a fortnight (16.1%), spending more money than received (14.9%) and unable to pay gas or electricity bill on time (10.3%).16 These were similar to the Australian results.

Indicators of financial stress experienced in last 12 months by households, in per cent, WA and Australia, 2015–16

WA

Australia

Could not afford holiday for at least one week a year

23.8

22.6

Could not afford a night out once a fortnight

16.1

16.6

Spend more money than received

14.9

12.8

Could not afford special meal once a week

13.3

11.9

Unable to raise $2,000 in a week for something important

12.3

13.3

Could only afford second hand clothes most of the time

11.7

11.0

Could not afford leisure or hobby activities

10.5

10.5

Could not pay gas, electricity or telephone bill on time

10.3

9.7

Sought financial help from friends or family

7.6

7.0

Could not afford friends or family over for a meal once a month

6.3

7.3

Could not pay registration or insurance on time

4.8

3.9

Went without meals

3.9

2.8

Sought assistance from welfare/community organisations

3.3

2.6

Pawned or sold something

2.1*

2.5

Unable to heat home

1.9

2.3

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Expenditure Survey 2015–16, Financial Stress Indicators, Table 11.3 Financial Stress Indicators: States and territories

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research calculated material deprivation across different demographic groups using data from the 2014 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. This study used material deprivation items identified by the Social Policy Research Centre (refer Saunders et al 200717), including items such as being able to afford furniture in reasonable condition, new school clothes for school-age children every year and medical treatment when needed.18

This study found that children under 15 years are one of the groups most significantly affected by deprivation with one in 10 children living in households without three or more items. They note this was in part because there are more deprivation items that apply to households with children.19

Proportion of people experiencing material deprivation by demographic group, in per cent, Australia, 2014

Proportion deprived of
2 or more items

Proportion deprived of
3 or more items

Aboriginal

40.3

21.5

Lone parent

29.4

19.1

Disability with severe work restrictions

25.5

16.4

Unemployed

24.9

14.5

Under 15 years

16.2

10.1

Disability with moderate work restrictions

15.9

9.2

Single non-elderly male

15.4

9.1

Single non-elderly female

15.1

7.6

Not in the labour force

14.5

8.5

15 to 24 years

14.6

8.2

Source: Wilkins, The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 14, Chapter 8 – Material Deprivation

Note: Not all groups in the analysis are reported above. The above table has been sorted from the highest level of deprivation (on 2 or more items) to lowest for the selected groups. Refer to Table 8.3 in Wilkins, Chapter 8 – Material Deprivation for the full list.

In this analysis Aboriginal Australians, single parents and people with disability with severe work restrictions were most likely to experience material deprivation. Of all age groups, children under 15 years of age had the highest proportion (10.1%) of people experiencing material deprivation (deprived of three or more items). Young people aged 15 to 24 years had the second highest proportion (8.2%) of people per age group experiencing material deprivation.20

The ABS, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) in 2014–15 reported that 31.5 per cent of Australian Aboriginal children aged four to 14 years lived in a household that ran out of money for basic living expenses.21

The Commissioner’s Speaking Out Survey provides further data on this topic, which will be included in the Indicators of Wellbeing in 2020. For an overview of the results refer to the Speaking Out Survey - Summary report.

Child poverty

While material deprivation is a more suitable approach to measuring young people’s experiences of poverty and deprivation, income-based poverty rates still provide important information on the risk of poverty in various populations.22

Measures of poverty are varied and contested. In wealthy countries such as Australia, the internationally accepted practice is to measure poverty by setting a poverty line as a fraction of the median disposable household income.23 Commonly-used poverty line thresholds are either 50.0 or 60.0 per cent of median income.24

Child poverty measures have historically been calculated for children and young people aged 0 to 14 years, referred to as children under 15 years. There is no data on young people aged 15 to 17 years.

In their 2018 Poverty in Australia report, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the University of NSW have used the 50.0 per cent poverty line after housing costs.25 They calculated that in 2015–16, 13.2 per cent of all Australians were in poverty and 17.3 per cent of children under 15 years of age were living in households experiencing poverty.26 

Australian children under 15 years of age generally experience the highest poverty rate compared to other age groups in Australia.27

The rate of child poverty differs across the various states and territories in Australia. The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) used the same methodology as the 2016 ACOSS Poverty Report (50.0% median income after housing costs) to calculate child poverty rates for each Australian jurisdiction in 2016.

Poverty rates for children under 15 years of age by jurisdiction, in per cent, Australia, 2015–16

Percentage

NSW

17.9

VIC

18.6

QLD

15.7

SA

17.3

WA

17.0

TAS

14.7

NT*

10.8

ACT

11.2

Australia

17.2

Source: NATSEM, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia

Note: Calculated based on 50 per cent of the Australian median disposable income (after housing costs)

* Northern Territory estimates are mainly representative of urban areas only. Remote and sparsely settled areas are excluded.

Poverty rates for children under 15 years of age by jurisdiction, in per cent, Australia, 2015–16

Source: NATSEM, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia

Based on this analysis the child poverty rate in WA in 2015–16 was 17.0 per cent, compared to 17.2 per cent Australia-wide.28

The ACOSS report: Poverty in Australia 2018 calculates that in 2015–16 people in WA faced a higher risk of poverty than people in all other Australian states and territories, except South Australia.

Poverty rates by jurisdiction, in per cent, Australia, 2011–12 and 2015–16

2011–12

2015–16

NSW

14.6

13.3

VIC

13.9

13.2

QLD

14.8

12.9

SA

11.7

14.7

WA

12.4

13.7

TAS

15.1

11.5

NT

9.1*

10.1

ACT

9.1*

7.7

Australia

13.9

13.2

Source: Davidson P et al 2018, Poverty in Australia, 2018, ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No 2 and Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) 2014, Poverty in Australia 2014, ACOSS and the Social Policy Research Centre

* Combined poverty rate for NT and ACT in 2011–12.

Note: Calculated based on 50 per cent of the Australian median disposable income (after housing costs)

Poverty rate by jurisdiction (excl. territories), in per cent, Australia, 2011–12 and 2015–16

Source: Davidson P et al 2018, Poverty in Australia, 2018, ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No 2 and Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) 2014, Poverty in Australia 2014, ACOSS and the Social Policy Research Centre

This data suggests that in WA poverty increased from 2011–12 to 2015–16, while it decreased in many other states across Australia.

Poverty rates in WA are tied to the economic booms and downturns in the WA economy, in particular, the shifts in median incomes and also changes in the cost of living, including rental costs.29 The increase in poverty in WA over this timeframe aligns with the end of the mining boom in WA which impacted incomes and costs.

Interestingly, the above analysis uses the Australian median income, not the WA median income. The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre calculated that in 2013–14 the WA (50.0%) poverty rate was 17.6 per cent using the state median income (which better reflects living standards and costs in WA), compared to 14.1 per cent using the national median income.30

Recent analysis using data from the HILDA survey suggests there has been a further increase in relative poverty across Australia from 2016 to 2017.31

ACOSS report that in 2015–16 poverty was higher among people living outside capital cities than among those who live in them (13.8% compared to 12.8% using the 50.0% of the median income poverty line).32

NATSEM calculated child poverty rates using income data from the 2016 Census for ABS Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) regions across Australia. Their analysis concluded that in 2016 over 60.0 per cent of children (aged 0 to 14 years) were in poverty in East Pilbara, Meekatharra and Roebuck. In contrast, approximately seven per cent of children in Floreat and Swanbourne-Mt Claremont were determined to be in poverty.33

Detailed data is not available to estimate poverty for Aboriginal children in WA, however, those areas with very high poverty have a higher proportion of Aboriginal children than non-Aboriginal children.

A research paper from the Australian National University researched the distribution of income within the Australian Aboriginal population, and between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations. This study used data from the 2016 Census to conclude that 31.4 per cent of Aboriginal Australians were living in poverty (50.0% median income before housing costs).34 In contrast, ACOSS and the University of NSW calculated that the general Australian poverty rate was 13.2 per cent in 2015–16 (50.0% median income after housing costs).35

These results confirm the disproportionate experience of poverty of Aboriginal Australians compared to the general population.

The proportion of Aboriginal Australians in poverty has nevertheless decreased from 33.9 per cent in 2006 to 31.4 per cent in 2016. However, this decrease is not evident for Aboriginal Australians in remote and very remote areas, where poverty increased from 2006 to 2016.36 In particular, the poverty rate for Aboriginal people in the West Kimberley and remote Goldfields-Esperance regions was greater than 42.0 per cent.37

For more information on poverty for Aboriginal people in Australia refer to:

Markham F and Biddle N 2018, Income, Poverty and Inequality: 2016 Census Paper No. 2, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University.

Low-income families

An alternative measure of financial disadvantage is the proportion of children and young people under 15 years of age living in low-income families. These children and young people are less likely to have good nutrition, appropriate housing, heating and medical care and more likely to live in a family experiencing stress, which is detrimental to their overall wellbeing.

The ABS reports data on household income by family type sourced from the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH), which is conducted every two years. In this survey, low-income households are defined as households in the lowest equivalised disposable household income quintile, excluding the first and second percentiles (ie the 3rd to 20th percentiles inclusive).38

The following data on low-income families in WA is from a custom report provided to the Commissioner for Children and Young People by the ABS using data from the SIH.

People in family households with dependent children considered low-income: number and in per cent, by family type, WA, 2007–08 to 2017–18

Couple families
with dependent children

Single-parent families
with dependent children

Total

Number

Per cent*

Number

Per cent*

Number

2007–08

69,500

7.7

29,500**

21.2

99,000

2009–10

90,100

9.7

47,700

28.3

137,800

2011–12

104,700

10.0

32,400

24.0

137,100

2013–14

72,900

7.1

54,800**

39.3#

127,700

2015–16

93,900

8.6

47,700

32.6#

141,600

2017–18

102,400

8.6

51,400

43.9#

153,800

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, custom report derived from the Survey of Income and Housing [unpublished]

Note: Dependent children are all persons aged under 15 years; and persons aged 15 to 24 years who are full-time students, have a parent in the household and do not have a partner or child of their own in the household.

* Proportion of people in this category (e.g. couple family with dependent children) who are in a low-income family.

** Estimate has a relative standard error of 25 per cent to 50 per cent and should be used with caution.

# Proportion has a high margin of error (MoE) and should be used with caution.

In 2017–18, 43.9 per cent of people in single-parent families with dependent children were living in low-income households (subject to a margin of error of 10.2), compared to only 8.6 per cent of people in couple families with dependent children.39

The proportion of people in single-parent families (usually a mother and children) who are considered low income has increased significantly since 2007-08 (subject to the margin of error). There has been a slight increase for couple families with dependent children, however, much less marked than for the single-parent families.

A higher proportion (43.9%) of WA single-parent families with dependent children are living in low-income families than single-parent families with dependent children across Australia (34.3%).40

Proportion of family types in equivalised disposable household income quintiles, in per cent, Australia, 2017–18

Lowest*

Second

Third

Fourth

Highest

Single-parent family
with dependent children

34.3

31.2

17.2

7.8

5.4

Couple family with dependent children

13.8

20.2

23.5

21.4

19.8

Couple only, no children

19.8

16.9

15.5

17.9

27.4

Lone person

37.9

15.0

15.0

13.1

13.9

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Income and Wealth, Australia, 2017–18, Cube 4 – selected characteristics of households and wealth

* The lowest quintile income quintile excludes the first and second percentiles. The 1st and 2nd percentiles are excluded due to the high wealth and expenditure characteristics those household exhibit, and the prevalence of income types other than employee income and government pensions and allowances. As a result, the categories do not sum to 100.

Proportion of family types in equivalised disposable household income quintiles, in per cent, Australia, 2017–18

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Income and Wealth, Australia, 2017–18, Cube 4 – selected characteristics of households and wealth

* The lowest quintile income quintile excludes the first and second percentiles. The 1st and 2nd percentiles are excluded due to the high wealth and expenditure characteristics those household exhibit, and the prevalence of income types other than employee income and government pensions and allowances. As a result, the categories do not sum to 100.

A significant majority (65.5%) of Australian single-parent families with dependent children were living in households receiving median incomes in the lowest two quintiles (excluding the first and second percentile).

Furthermore, other data shows that just under one-half of single parents (45%) are more likely to be spending more than 30.0 per cent of their gross weekly income on housing.41 Refer to the Homelessness and housing stress measure for more discussion.

Child poverty data principally reports on children and young people under 15 years‑old or as part of the poverty statistics for the general population (e.g. as part of a low-income household). However, the small number of young people under 18 years of age who have left the family home and are living independently also have a very high risk of financial disadvantage. This group will include young people who are homeless and a small number who may be living independently with other families, their partners or their friends (e.g. in a share house). There is no data available on these young people’s financial position including their poverty rate.

Young people who leave home before they are 18 years of age are at significant risk of homelessness. The ABS notes that it is difficult to estimate homelessness for these young people as they are often ‘couch surfing’ with friends or other family and may be reported as visiting, with a ‘usual address’ reported even though the young person may not intend to return there.42 Young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are discussed in the Homelessness and housing stress measure.

Endnotes

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2012, A picture of Australia’s children 2012, Cat no PHE 167, AIHW, p. 70.
  2. Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) 2009, Technical Report: The wellbeing of young Australians, ARACY, p. 27.
  3. Barnett M 2008, Economic Disadvantage in Complex Family Systems: Expansion of Family Stress Models, Clinical child and family psychology review, Vol 11, No 3.
  4. Machell K et al 2016, Buffering the Negative Impact of Poverty on Youth: The Power of Purpose in Life, Social Indicators Research, Vol 126, No 2.
  5. Anglicare Australia 2019, Jobs Availability Snapshot 2019, Anglicare Australia.
  6. Saunders P et al 2018, Material Deprivation and Social Exclusion Among Young Australians: A child-focused approach (SPRC Report 24/18), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW.
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, Fact Sheet: Household Economic Wellbeing – Low economic resource households, ABS.
  8. Saunders P et al 2007, Towards new indicators of Disadvantage: Deprivation and social exclusion in Australia, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, p. vii.
  9. Saunders P et al 2018, Material Deprivation and Social Exclusion Among Young Australians: A child-focused approach (SPRC Report 24/18), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Sollis K 2019, Measuring Child Deprivation and Opportunity in Australia: Applying the Nest framework to develop a measure of deprivation and opportunity for children using the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, ARACY, p. 39.
  12. Ibid, p. 49.
  13. Ibid, p. 49.
  14. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, Fact Sheet: Household Economic Wellbeing – Low economic resource households, ABS.
  15. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017, Financial Stress and Spending from 6530.0 - Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results, 2015-16, ABS.
  16. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017, Financial Stress and Spending from 6530.0 - Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: 2015-16, Table 11.1 Financial Stress Indicators, Equivalised disposable household income quintiles, ABS.
  17. Saunders P et al 2007, Towards New Indicators of Disadvantage: Deprivation and Social Exclusion in Australia, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales.
  18. Saunders P and Wilkins R 2016, The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 14, Chapter 8 – Material Deprivation, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, p. 84.
  19. Ibid, p. 87.
  20. Ibid, p. 87.
  21. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS): 2014-15, Table 6: Selected characteristics, by remoteness — Children aged 0–3 years — 2008 and 2014–15, ABS.
  22. Saunders P et al 2018, Material Deprivation and Social Exclusion Among Young Australians: A child-focused approach (SPRC Report 24/18), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW.
  23. There has recently been increasing recognition of how wealth interacts with income and that someone with a low income can have high wealth and therefore not be in poverty. Source: Saunders P et al 2007, Towards new indicators of Disadvantage: Deprivation and social exclusion in Australia, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, p. 1.This is particularly relevant for older Australians who may have low income and yet own their homes and have other assets.
  24. Marks G 2007, Social Policy Research Paper No 29: Income poverty, subjective poverty and financial stress, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, p 2.
  25. The ACOSS Poverty report 2018 uses data from the ABS Survey of Income and Housing 2015-16 along with data from earlier similar ABS surveys. They have calculated poverty rates from household disposable income after housing costs. They also excluded two population groups from their analysis: all households who report zero or negative disposable incomes; and all self-employed households. Refer to the Research methodology report for further discussion.
  26. Davidson P et al 2018, Poverty in Australia, 2018, ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No 2, ACOSS, p. 22.
  27. Productivity Commission 2018, Rising inequality? A stocktake of the evidence, Productivity Commission Research Paper, Productivity Commission, p. 121.
  28. Miranti R et al. 2018, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA), University of Canberra.
  29. Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) 2018, THE PRICE IS RIGHT? an Examination of the Cost of Living in Western Australia, Focus on Western Australia Report Series, No.10, December 2017, BCEC, p. viii.
  30. Ibid, p. 74.
  31. Wilkins R 2019, Household Economic Wellbeing, in Wilkins R et al., The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 17, Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, University of Melbourne, p. 43.
  32. Davidson P et al 2018, Poverty in Australia, 2018, ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No 2, ACOSS, p. 64.
  33. Miranti R et al. 2018, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA), University of Canberra.
  34. Markham F and Biddle N 2018, Income, Poverty and Inequality: 2016 Census Paper No. 2, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, p. 16.
  35. Davidson P et al 2018, Poverty in Australia, 2018, ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No 2, ACOSS, p. 22.
  36. Markham F and Biddle N 2018, Income, Poverty and Inequality: 2016 Census Paper No. 2, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, p. 16.
  37. Ibid, p. 18.
  38. The first and second percentiles are excluded due to the high wealth and expenditure characteristics those household exhibit, and the prevalence of income types other than employee income and government pensions and allowances.
  39. The previous report The State of Western Australia’s Children and Young People – Edition Two used analysis from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which excluded the first income decile. The ABS have recently noted that that this approach may have over-estimated the economic wellbeing of low income households, and unnecessarily excluded some of the most vulnerable households in the lowest income decile. The 2017–18 SIH uses the adjusted lowest income quintile that was introduced for the 2013–14 SIH cycle. The adjusted lowest income quintile is made up of the lowest two deciles, excluding the first and second percentiles.
  40. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019, Household Income and Wealth, Australia, 2017–18, Cube 4 – selected characteristics of households and wealth, ABS.
  41. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019, 4130.0 - Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2017-18: Summary, ABS.
  42. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, 2049.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016 – Explanatory Notes, ABS.
Measure: Experiences of social exclusion

Social exclusion is not having the capacity and opportunity to engage in activities that are generally seen as part of normal economic and social functioning.1 It is a multi-dimensional concept which is broader than financial disadvantage and considers barriers that lead to exclusion including discrimination, geographic disadvantages and lack of access to services.

Young people experience social exclusion when they lack the opportunities and resources to participate fully in their communities, education and health services and to feel connected.2

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) has developed the Child Social Exclusion (CSE) Index for 0 to 14 year-olds which comprises five domains related to social exclusion: socioeconomic circumstances, education, connectedness, housing and health service access.3

There is no data available for young people aged 15 to 17 years.

NATSEM use the Census and other administrative data including the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results and the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data to determine a CSE Index score for all geographic locations across Australia.

In 2016, 11.4 per cent of WA children and young people aged 0 to 14 years were in the most excluded CSE Index quintile (compared to 20.0 per cent of Australian children and young people).4

Proportion of children and young people aged 0 to 14 years in the most excluded quintile by jurisdiction, in per cent, Australia, 2016

Percentage most excluded

NSW

21.7

VIC

18.1

QLD

20.7

SA

26.0

WA

11.4

TAS

34.1

NT

43.1

ACT

0.0

Source: NATSEM, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia

Across all States and Territories (excluding the Australian Capital Territory), WA had the lowest proportion of children in the lowest quintile of social exclusion.

From 2011 to 2016 the researchers determined that across Australia the educational status of families had improved, a greater proportion of parents were undertaking voluntary work, but more families were experiencing housing stress.5 This analysis was not reported by jurisdiction.

There were significant variations across WA regions. A high CSE Index score is a sign of greater disadvantage. In 2016, CSE Index scores were highest in the remote WA regions of Halls Creek (77.79), Leinster-Leonora (71.17), East Pilbara (69.68) and Roebuck (64.41). In the Perth metropolitan area, children and young people living in suburbs including Girrawheen (58.16) and Balga-Mirrabooka (54.95) were at very high risk of experiencing social exclusion.

In stark contrast, children and young people living in suburbs including City Beach (0.33), Floreat (0.49), Swanbourne-Mt Claremont (0.60) and Cottesloe (0.67) were at very low risk of social exclusion.

Consistent with these results, while approximately 20.0 per cent of children in metropolitan and regional areas are at a high risk of social exclusion, NATSEM determined that 36.0 per cent of Australian children in remote and very remote areas were facing the highest risk of social exclusion.6

Proportion of children and young people aged 0 to 14 years in remoteness areas by CSE Index, in per cent, Australia, 2016

Major cities

Inner regional

Outer regional

Remote and very remote

Least excluded 20%

25.0

9.9

3.7

10.0

Quintile 2

19.9

20.1

21.4

18.4

Quintile 3

17.1

26.4

29.0

24.4

Quintile 4

18.5

23.6

27.3

11.6

Most excluded 20%

19.6

20.0

18.7

35.6

Total

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

Source: NATSEM, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia, Table 4: A Comparison of 2016 CSE Index by Remoteness Area 2016 (% of children)

Proportion of children in remoteness areas by CSE Index, in per cent, Australia, 2016

Source: NATSEM, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia, Table 4: A Comparison of 2016 CSE Index by Remoteness Area 2016 (% of children)

Approximately 20.0 per cent of children and young people in metropolitan and regional areas are at a high risk of social exclusion.

Research using the NATSEM CSE Index has shown that Australian children and young people living in areas with a high risk of child social exclusion have, on average, worse health outcomes than children and young people living in other areas.7

This study found that the rate of potentially preventable hospitalisations was 75.0 per cent higher among the 20.0 per cent of Australian children and young people who lived in areas with the highest risk of child social exclusion than among the 20.0 per cent who lived in areas with the lowest risk. This result was statistically significant, while the differences between the other quintiles were not significant.8

Of particular concern, there were more than twice as many avoidable deaths among the 20.0 per cent of children and young people who lived in the areas with the highest risk of child social exclusion than among the 20.0 per cent who lived in the areas with the lowest risk.9

Recognising that living in remote locations is associated with a high risk of social exclusion and poor health outcomes, the hospitalisation analysis was performed excluding remote and very remote areas. The association between social exclusion and potentially preventable hospitalisations was still significant (although not as marked) for non-remote areas.10

In 2014, the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) also developed an index of youth social exclusion for young people aged 15 to 19 years. The index included indicators of social exclusion that are relevant for young people in this age group including engagement in education or employment, no access to the internet at home and no access to a car amongst others.11

Using the 2011 Census data, supplemented by additional administrative data, NATSEM identified Australian geographic areas where young people were highly socially excluded.12 These areas were characterised by low income, unemployment, low educational attainment and achievement, low rates of youth participation, very high youth unemployment, high rates of teenage pregnancy, overcrowding, disability and low access to health services.13 Consistent with the CSE Index, 19.4 per cent of young people in major Australian cities faced the highest risk of social exclusion while in remote and very remote Australia, this proportion was more than double with 46 per cent of young people in the bottom quintile.

This index has not been updated for the 2016 Census and therefore detailed data is not presented here.

Endnotes

  1. Saunders P et al. 2018, Material Deprivation and Social Exclusion Among Young Australians: A child-focused approach (SPRC Report 24/18), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, p. 2.
  2. Miranti R et al. 2018, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA), University of Canberra, p. 4.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid, p. 27.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2014, Child social exclusion and health outcomes: a study of small areas across Australia, Bulletin no. 121, Cat No AUS 180, AIHW.
  8. Ibid, p. 6.
  9. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2014, Child social exclusion and health outcomes: a study of small areas across Australia, Bulletin no. 121, Cat No AUS 180, AIHW.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Abello A et al 2014, Youth Social Exclusion in Australian Communities: A New Index, NATSEM Working Paper 14/25, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, University of Canberra, p. 14.
  12. Refer to page 27 of the report for a map of the Youth Social Exclude Index quintile distribution across Australia.
  13. Abello A et al 2014, Youth Social Exclusion in Australian Communities: A New Index, NATSEM Working Paper 14/25, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, University of Canberra, p. 25.
Measure: Experiences of homelessness and housing stress
#1217-homeless

Homelessness and housing instability has both immediate and longer-term effects on children and young people’s health and wellbeing. Research indicates childhood experiences of homelessness may affect physical health, educational attainment and social functioning.1,2,3 It is also linked to homelessness in adulthood.4

Housing stress can be experienced when a family is experiencing housing instability due to high housing costs (housing affordability), is living in low-quality housing, is experiencing overcrowding or has been subject to multiple house moves.5

Ensuring children and young people have a stable home by improving housing affordability is critical to reducing rates of deprivation and poverty and therefore improving the long term outcomes for many children and young people in WA.6

The Census is the primary measure of homelessness in Australia.

In 2016, there were 748 WA young people aged 12 to 18 years who were reported as homeless in the Census.

Homelessness for children and young people occurs through the following pathways:7

  • being part of a homeless family (usually due to poverty or intergenerational homelessness)
  • leaving the family home with one parent (usually with the mother to escape violence or abuse)
  • leaving the family home independently (often to escape violence or abuse in the home)
  • exiting care or the youth justice system.

Young people, particularly those aged 15 years and over, may no longer be living with their family and may be independently homeless.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines a person as homeless if they do not have suitable accommodation alternatives and their current living arrangement: is in a dwelling that is inadequate; has no tenure, or if their initial tenure is short and not extendable; or does not allow them to have control of, and access to space for social relations.8 This definition was introduced by the ABS in 2011 and incorporates a concept of severe overcrowding, contrary to the traditional definition of homelessness.9

The ABS notes that it is difficult to estimate homelessness for young people as they are often ‘couch surfing’ with friends or other family and may be reported as visiting, with a ‘usual address’ reported even though the young person may not intend to return there. The Census is therefore likely to underestimate the number of young people in this age group who are homeless and the ABS notes there is no mechanism to determine the magnitude of this underestimation.10

Children aged 12 to 18 years reported as homeless, number and gender, WA, 2011 and 2016

2011

2016

Male

458

350

Female

476

398

Total

934

748

Source: ABS, 2011 and 2016, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, Table 4.6 Homeless Operational Groups and Other Marginal Housing, Western Australia – Sex by age of person – 2016

The number of WA young people reported as homeless decreased from 2011 to 2016.

In 2016, the WA rate of homelessness for young people aged 12 to 18 years was lower than in all other states and territories, except the ACT.

Rate of homeless children aged 12 to 18 years by jurisdiction, number per 10,000 of population, Australia, 2006 to 2016

NSW

VIC

QLD

SA

WA

TAS

NT

ACT

Australia

2006

32.5

39.0

48.4

47.2

46.8

25.3

1,072.2

35.8

51.1

2011

41.7

47.1

48.0

43.8

44.3

40.0

944.8

67.3

54.9

2016

43.3

41.8

41.4

46.6

35.5

37.8

935.2

34.6

51.0

Source: Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016, Table 1.5 State and Territory of Usual Residence, Rate of homeless persons per 10,000 of the population, by selected characteristics, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016

Rate of homeless children aged 12 to 18 years by jurisdiction (excl. NT and ACT), number per 10,000 of population, Australia, 2006 to 2016

Source: Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016, Table 1.5 State and Territory of Usual Residence, Rate of homeless persons per 10,000 of the population, by selected characteristics, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016

The rate of homelessness for WA young people aged 12 to 18 years reduced from 46.8 per 10,000 population in 2006 to 35.5 per 10,000 population in 2016. This was a significant reduction compared to other jurisdictions.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) manages the Specialist Homelessness Services Collection (SHSC) which collects data about people who are receiving support from specialist homelessness services funded by the Australian Government and State and Territory governments.

This collection captures different data from the Census as it does not necessarily include people who are living in severely overcrowded dwellings but can include people who are at risk of homelessness if they are receiving support from homelessness services. Furthermore, this collection provides information on the number of people accessing a service during a year, while the Census seeks to report the number of people experiencing homelessness at a point in time.

In 2017–18, 3,225 children and young people aged 10 to 19 years presented at WA specialist homelessness services (with their families).

Number of children and young people presenting to specialist homelessness services by age group, number, WA, 2014–15 to 2017–18

0 to 9 years

10 to 19 years

Total

2014−15

3,897

2,952

6,850

2015−16

4,438

3,137

7,575

2016−17

4,401

3,302

7,703

2017−18

4,029

3,223

7,252

Source: AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data cubes 2011–18, SHSC Geographical Location of client

Number of children and young people presenting to specialist homelessness services by age group, number, WA, 2011–12 to 2017–18

Source: AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data cubes 2011–18, SHSC Geographical Location of client

A smaller number of young people (aged 10 to 17 years) present to WA specialist homelessness services than children who are younger than 10 years of age.

The number of WA young people aged 10 to 19 years presenting to specialist homelessness services increased between 2014–15 and 2016–17 and marginally decreased in 2017–18.

From 15 years of age more young people will present to homelessness services on their own, rather than with their families. In 2017–18, 1,156 young people aged 15 to 17 years presented to homelessness services in WA. Of these, 802 (69.4%) young people presented alone.

Number of children and young people presenting to specialist homelessness services by presenting unit type – first reported by age group and gender, number, WA, 2017–18

Lone person

Couple with children

Single parent with children

Other

Total

10 to 14 years

Male

116

44

480

18

658

Female

81

43

518

43

685

Total

197

87

998

61

1,343

15 to 17 years

Male

316

12

84

15

427

Female

486

18

190

35

729

Total

802

30

274

50

1,156

Source: AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data cubes 2011–18, SHSC Demographics data cube

While the proportion of male and female young people aged 10 to 14 presenting to homelessness services in WA was relatively even, in the older age group of young people aged 15 to 17 years the proportion of female clients was greater than that of male clients (63.1% female compared to 36.9% male).

This is consistent with national data, where two in three (64.0%) young people aged 15 to 24 years presenting alone to homelessness services in 2017–18 were young women.11

Number and proportion of children and young people presenting to specialist homelessness services by age group and gender, number and per cent, WA, 2017–18

Male

Female

Total

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Number

0 to 9 years (10 years)

2,100

51.2

2,000

48.8

4,100

10 to 14 years (5 years)

658

49.0

685

51.0

1,343

15 to 17 years (3 years)

427

36.9

729

63.1

1,156

18 to 19 years (2 years)

299

36.0

531

64.0

830

20 to 24 years (5 years)

536

26.9

1,458

73.1

1,994

Source: AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data cubes 2011–18, SHSC Demographics data cube

With regards to Aboriginal children and young people, a greater number of Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal children aged 0 to nine years present with their families to homelessness services (2,279 compared to 1,672). However, the same difference is not found in the 10 to 14 years age group and for young people 15 years and older, non-Aboriginal clients are more common than Aboriginal clients (1,102 compared to 830).  

Similar to the pattern observed for female and male young people, this could be because fewer Aboriginal young people will present on their own, compared to presenting with their family.

Number of people presenting to specialist homelessness services by age group and Aboriginal status, number, WA, 2017–18

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Not stated

Total

0 to 9 years

2,279

1,672

149

4,100

10 to 14 years

673

626

44

1,343

15 to 17 years

480

643

33

1,156

Source: AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data cubes 2011–18, SHSC Demographics data cube

Overall, of the 1,986 WA young people (aged 15 to 19 years) presenting to a specialist homelessness agency in 2017–18, one in four (41.8%) were Aboriginal.12 While this figure is disproportionate to the Aboriginal population, it is lower than the proportion recorded for the youngest age group (55.6% of WA 0 to 9 year-olds were Aboriginal).

Proportion of people presenting to specialist homelessness services by age group and Aboriginal status, in per cent WA, 2017–18

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

Not stated

Total

0 to 9 years

55.6

40.8

3.6

100.0

10 to 14 years

50.1

46.6

3.3

100.0

15 to 17 years

41.5

55.6

2.9

100.0

Source: AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data cubes 2011–18, SHSC Demographics data cube

Proportion of people presenting to specialist homelessness services by age group and Aboriginal status, in per cent WA, 2017–18

Source: AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data cubes 2011–18, SHSC Demographics data cube

These statistics highlight that Aboriginal children and young people across all age groups are disproportionately impacted by homelessness, as Aboriginal children and young people make up only 6.8 per cent of the total WA population of children and young people.13 

Furthermore, WA Aboriginal children and young people are particularly vulnerable to homelessness in comparison to Aboriginal young adults and non-Aboriginal children and young people in WA.  

In comparison to all other Australian jurisdictions (except the Northern Territory), a larger proportion (6.0%) of WA people live in remote and very remote areas.14 This influences the geographic structure of homelessness in WA, such that a high proportion (28.1%) of WA people who are homeless live in remote and very remote areas.

Proportion of people who are homeless by jurisdiction and remoteness area, in per cent, Australia, 2016

Major cities

Inner and outer regional

Remote and very remote

NSW

83.6

15.8

0.6

VIC*

84.6

15.0

0.1

QLD

52.0

35.6

12.5

SA

73.3

18.2

8.5

WA

58.2

13.7

28.1

TAS*

0.0

98.3

1.7

NT*

0.0

12.8

87.2

ACT

100.0

0.0

0.0

Australia

64.6

19.9

15.5

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016, Table 7.1 Homeless Operational Groups and Other Marginal Housing, Remoteness Areas by State and Territory of place of enumeration

* The Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) defines remoteness areas into five classes of relative remoteness across Australia using a combination of population sizes (to define urban centres) and distances from urban centres. This table combines remote and very remote and inner and outer regional. In this classification, Hobart and Darwin are not major cities and Victoria does not have very remote locations. Refer to 1270.0.55.005 - Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5 - Remoteness Structure, July 2016 for more information.

Proportion of people who are homeless by jurisdiction and remoteness area, in per cent, Australia, 2016

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016, Table 7.1 Homeless Operational Groups and Other Marginal Housing, Remoteness Areas by State and Territory of place of enumeration

The majority of people who are homeless in WA live either in the metropolitan area (58.2%) or in very remote areas (21.2%).

WA children and young people aged 0 to 14 years living in remote and very remote areas were seven times more likely to be homeless than those living in outer regional areas (2.1% compared to 0.3% respectively) and 10 times more likely to be homeless than those living in the metropolitan area (2.1% compared to 0.2% respectively).15

Of the people in WA who are homeless and living in a very remote location, 72 per cent are considered homeless as a result of severe overcrowding. In contrast, of the 58 per cent of WA people who are homeless in the Perth metropolitan area, only 38 per cent are homeless as a result of severe overcrowding.16

Over 60 per cent of people who are homeless in the Pilbara and Kimberley are in severely overcrowded dwellings.17

Aboriginal people in WA are 25 times more likely to be living in severely overcrowded dwellings than non-Aboriginal people (233.8 per 10,000 compared to 9.2 per 10,000).18 This is associated with the relatively high number of Aboriginal people living in remote WA locations.

The majority (66.9%) of WA young people aged 12 to 18 years who were categorised as homeless in 2016 lived in severely overcrowded dwellings.

Children and young people who are homeless by operational group and age group, number, WA, 2016

0 to 11 years

12 to 18 years

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out

68

5.6

45

6.1

Supported accommodation for the homeless

146

12.1

121

16.3

Temporarily staying with other households

129

10.7

68

9.2

Boarding houses

13

1.1

18

2.4

Severely crowded dwellings*

860

71.2

496

66.9

Total

1,208

100.0

741

100.0

Source: ABS, 2016, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, Table 4.6 Homeless operational groups and other marginal housing, Western Australia – Sex by age of person – 2016

* People living in severely crowded dwellings are living in a dwelling which requires four or more extra bedrooms to accommodate the people who usually live there, as defined by the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS). ABS, 2012, Fact Sheet: Overcrowding.

Overcrowding limits people’s access to basic amenities which are necessary for health, including washing, laundry, hygienic food storage and preparation, and safe disposal of waste.19 Overcrowding can also increase the risk of family violence, child abuse and neglect.20,21,22

As WA Aboriginal children are more likely to live in overcrowded circumstances they are more likely to experience poor health and wellbeing outcomes.23

The Specialist Homelessness Services Collections gather data on clients’ reasons for seeking assistance at the start of their support period. The majority of people attending homelessness services in WA in 2017–18 were attending due to domestic and family violence.

WA women are more likely to seek assistance from specialist homelessness services than men (66.8% of adult clients are female).24 Forty-four per cent of females in WA seeking assistance from specialist homelessness services were affected by family and domestic violence.

WA clients of specialist homelessness services: top four main reasons for seeking assistance by gender, number and per cent, WA, 2017–18

Male

Female

Total

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Family and domestic violence

1,767

20.5

6,456

44.1

8,223

35.3

Financial difficulties

1,832

21.2

1,938

13.2

3,770

16.2

Housing crisis

1,002

11.6

1,270

8.7

2,272

9.8

Inadequate or inappropriate dwelling conditions

847

9.8

960

6.6

1,807

7.8

Source: AIHW Specialist homelessness services 2017–18, Table WA CLIENTS.14: Clients, by main reasons for seeking assistance, 2017–18

Note: The above table reports on all clients including children. 1,548 (88%) of the males seeking assistance due to domestic and family violence were children compared to 26 per cent of the females.

It should be noted that the main reason quoted will usually not be the only reason; people seeking assistance for homelessness are often experiencing multiple and intersecting difficulties such as leaving violence, family breakdown, financial difficulties, drug and alcohol issues and legal disputes.25,26

The following are the top reasons for children and young people to seek assistance from WA homelessness services. For most children and young people these will be the reasons provided by the family member they attended the service with.

WA children and young people’s top seven main reasons for seeking assistance from specialist homelessness services by age group, number, WA, 2017–18

0 to 9 years

10 to 14 years

15 to 17 years

Total

Family and domestic violence

2,413

560

256

3,229

Other*

454

235

102

791

Housing crisis

292

101

108

501

Inadequate or inappropriate
dwelling conditions

163

52

134

349

Relationship/family breakdown

137

86

179

402

Housing affordability stress

135

57

34

226

Time out from family/other situation

134

49

80

263

Source: AIHW, Specialist Homelessness Services Collection data cubes 2011–18, SHSC Demographics data cube

* There is no breakdown of Other by age group, however the other category includes ‘Lack of family and/or community support’, ‘Itinerant’, ‘Transfer from custodial arrangements’ and ‘Unable to return home due to environmental reasons’.

The single most common reason for children and young people seeking assistance is family and domestic violence.

Family and domestic violence is one of the key drivers of homelessness for women and children.27 Research has found that there is a lack of secure, affordable and permanent housing to provide women and children leaving violence with safe, long-term housing.28 Family and domestic violence victims therefore sometimes decide to remain in, or return to, a violent relationship because of the lack of available and appropriate housing.29

For more information on WA young people’s experiences of family and domestic violence refer to the Safe in the home indicator.

A large proportion of WA people accessing homelessness services have an income support payment as their main source of income.

Homelessness services clients aged 15 and over by main source of income, number and per cent, WA, 2017–18

Males

Females

Total

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Newstart Allowance

2,681

52.8

3,176

29.7

5,857

37.1

Parenting Payment

142

2.8

3,203

30.0

3,345

21.2

Disability Support Pension

780

15.4

933

8.7

1,713

10.9

Youth Allowance

373

7.3

590

5.5

963

6.1

Source: AIHW Specialist homelessness services 2017–18, Table WA Clients.10: Clients aged 15 and over, by main source of income, 2017–18

A high proportion (30.0%) of WA women attending homelessness services are on Parenting Payment and therefore have children under eight years of age.

Housing affordability and availability has a significant impact on families and young people’s ability to live securely and safely. Research shows that housing stress and instability can have a detrimental effect on children and young people’s health and wellbeing in the short term and over the longer term.30,31

A household living with housing stress is defined as a household that spends more than 30.0 per cent of their income on housing costs.33 Based on data from the 2016 Census 21.3 per cent of WA children aged 0 to 14 years live in a household experiencing housing stress. This is a slight reduction from 2011 (23.2%), but still higher than the proportion in 2006 (17.5%).33

Although housing prices have reduced since the end of the mining boom, in 2019 Perth still ranked as the least affordable city in Australia for renters with typical housing cost shares around 27.0 per cent of disposable income.34 The risk of poverty is more than twice as high for households renting privately than home-owners, with or without a mortgage.35

Almost one-half of WA single parents who live in rented accommodation survive on low incomes and commit at least 30.0 per cent of their income towards housing costs.36

While the proportion of households experiencing rental stress has increased since 2001 for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal households, the increase has been more significant for Aboriginal households, particularly in rural areas (an increase of 126.9 per cent).

WA households in rental stress by Aboriginal status, in per cent, WA, 2001 to 2016

2001

2006

2011

2016

Increase
2001 to 2016

Urban*

Aboriginal

21.7

28.5

33.5

40.4

86.2

Non-Aboriginal

29.0

32.9

35.8

39.1

34.8

Rural*

Aboriginal

7.8

10.3

13.8

17.7

126.9

Non-Aboriginal

19.6

26.2

26.1

27.9

42.3

Source: AIHW 2019, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: a focus report on housing and homelessness

* Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be rural if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area.

Note: Rental stress is defined as households that, based on their Census responses paid more than thirty per cent of household gross income on rent payments. Excludes households where the proportion of gross income spent on rental payments couldn't be determined.

WA households in rental stress by Aboriginal status, in per cent, WA, 2001 to 2016

Source: AIHW 2019, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: a focus report on housing and homelessness

The WA state government has a number of mechanisms available to improve housing affordability including increasing social housing, subsidising private rentals, providing low deposit housing loans through Keystart and increasing affordable housing lots to increase general housing stock.

Social housing is available for those people who are unable to access suitable accommodation in the private rental market. Social housing is rental housing provided by the state and territory governments and community sectors. In WA it includes public housing, community housing and Indigenous community housing.

In recent years the supply of social housing has not kept pace with demand.37 The number of social housing dwellings per 100 households in Australia has declined from 5.1 per 100 households in 2007–08 to 4.6 in 2017–18.38

The stock of social housing dwellings in WA has not increased substantially since 2014.

Social housing dwellings, number, WA, 2016 to 2018

30 June 2014

30 June 2015

30 June 2016

30 June 2017

30 June 2018

Public housing

33,467

33,361

33,533

33,836

33,293

Community housing

6,967

6,776

7,409

7,847

8,062

Indigenous community housing

2,493

2,575

2,670

2,649

2,704

Total

42,927

42,712

43,612

44,332

44,059

Source: AIHW, Housing Assistance in Australia – annual reports.

The average waiting times for public rental housing in WA have reduced from 158 weeks in 2014–15 to 95 weeks in 2018–19. The median waiting time in 2018–19 was 45 weeks, a reduction from 125 weeks in 2014–15.39

While the reduction in waiting times is encouraging, 45 weeks is still almost one year to wait for public housing.

At 30 June 2018, there were 6,892 applicants on the public housing wait list who were under the age of 18 years.40

Applicants on public housing wait list: number, overall and under the age of 18, WA, 30 June 2016, 2017 and 2018

Total Applications (number)

Total Applicants (number)

Applicants
under 18 (number)

Applicants
under 18 (per cent of total)

30 June 2018

13,912

23,637

6,892

29.1

30 June 2017

16,516

29,544

9,070

30.7

30 June 2016

18,530

36,167

11,963

33.1

Source: Department of Communities (Housing) 2018, data as at 30 June 2016, 2017 and 2018, custom report [unpublished]

Despite a significant reduction in the number of applicants under 18 years of age over the last two years from 11,963 to 6,892, children and young people continue to represent a significant proportion of 29.1 per cent of all applicants on the public housing list.

Demand for social housing differs across the WA metropolitan area and regions.

The Department of Communities calculated demand for social housing across local government areas (LGAs) in WA using data from the 2016 Census. It is estimated that the WA metropolitan LGAs with the highest unmet demand for social housing and high projected population growth included Armadale (unmet demand of approximately 1,000 houses), Wanneroo (unmet demand of approximately 1,750 houses) and Swan (unmet demand of approximately 1,300 houses).41

For non-metropolitan areas, the LGAs of Busselton (unmet demand of approximately 640 houses), Greater Geraldton (unmet demand of approximately 690 houses) and Broome (unmet demand of approximately 400 houses) had the highest unmet demand for social housing and high projected population growth.42

For more information on homelessness, housing affordability and housing stress refer to the following resources:

Bland D and Shallcross L 2015, Children who are homeless with their family: A literature review, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.

Cooper T 2018, Policy and Support Needs of Independent Homeless Young People 12-15 years: Young People’s Voices, Commissioner for Children and Young People and Edith Cowan University.

Kaleveld L et al 2018, Homelessness in Western Australia: A review of the research and statistical evidence, WA Government, Department of Communities.

Youth Development Australia Ltd (YDA) 2019, A National Report Card on Youth Homelessness, YDA and National Youth Commission.

Endnotes

  1. Noble-Carr D 2007, The Experiences and Effects of Family Homelessness for Children: A Literature Review, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University.
  2. Cobb-Clarke D et al 2016, A journey home: What drives how long people are homeless?, Journal of Urban Economics, Vol 91.
  3. Sandel M et al 2018, Unstable Housing and Caregiver and Child Health in Renter Families, Pediatrics, Vol 141, No 2.
  4. Flatau P et al 2013, Lifetime and intergenerational experiences of homelessness in Australia, AHURI Final Report No 200, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, p. 2-3.
  5. Sandel M et al 2018, Unstable Housing and Caregiver and Child Health in Renter Families, Pediatrics, Vol 141, No 2.
  6. Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) 2018, THE PRICE IS RIGHT? an Examination of the Cost of Living in Western Australia, Focus on Western Australia Report Series, No.10, December 2017, BCEC, p. 66.
  7. Kaleveld L et al 2018, Homelessness in Western Australia: A review of the research and statistical evidence, Government of Western Australia, Department of Communities, p. 30.
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, Explanatory Notes: Definitions of Homelessness. ABS.
  9. Kaleveld L et al 2018, Homelessness in Western Australia: A review of the research and statistical evidence, Government of Western Australia, Department of Communities, p. 7.
  10. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, 2049.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016 – Explanatory Notes, ABS.
  11. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18 – Young people presenting alone, AIHW [website].
  12. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18 – Young people presenting alone, AIHW [website].
  13. Calculated from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3238.0.55.001 - Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2016. Refer to the Commissioners’ Profile of Western Australia’s Children and Young People for more information.
  14. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2019, 3218.0 - Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2017-18, Population Estimates by Remoteness Area (ASGS 2016), 2008 to 2018.
  15. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Children’s Headline Indictors: Homelessness, AIHW.
  16. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016, Table 7.1 Homeless Operational Groups and Other Marginal Housing, Remoteness Areas by State and Territory of place of enumeration, ABS.
  17. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016, Table 5.1 Homeless Operational Groups and Other Marginal Housing, by place of enumeration, Statistical Area Level 3 and 4, ABS.
  18. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2018, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating homelessness, 2016, Table 1.7 State and Territory of Usual Residence, Rate of homeless persons per 10,000 of the population, Homeless operational groups by selected characteristics, ABS.
  19. Flatau P et al 2018, The State of Homelessness in Australia’s Cities: A Health and Social Cost Too High, Centre for Social Impact The University of Western Australia, p. 33.
  20. Cant R et al 2019, Overcrowded housing: One of a constellation of vulnerabilities for child sexual abuse, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol 93.
  21. Parkinson S et al 2017, Child Neglect: Key concepts and risk factors – A report to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services Office of the Senior Practitioner, Australian Centre for Child Protection, p. 36.
  22. DiNicola K et al 2019, Out of the Shadows: Domestic and family violence – a leading cause of homelessness in Australia, Mission Australia, p. 29.
  23. Flatau P et al 2018, The State of Homelessness in Australia’s Cities: A Health and Social Cost Too High, Centre for Social Impact The University of Western Australia, p. 33.
  24. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Specialist homelessness services 2017–18, Table WA CLIENTS.1: Clients and support periods, by age and sex, 2017–18.
  25. Wood L 2019, Safe as Houses Evaluation Report, School of Population and Global Health: University of Western Australia, p. 1.
  26. Australian Government 2008, The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness, Australian Government, p. 24.
  27. [Ibid, p. 7.
  28. Flanagan K et al 2019, Housing outcomes after domestic and family violence, AHURI Final Report 311, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, p. 4, 56.
  29. Ibid, p. 4.
  30. Wood L 2016, What are the health, social and economic benefits of providing public housing and support to formerly homeless people?, AHURI Final Report No.265, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, p. 12.
  31. [1] Dockery M et al 2014, What impact does a child’s housing have on their development and wellbeing?, AHURI Research and Policy Bulletin, No 171.
  32. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018, Children’s Headline Indicators - Housing Stress, AIHW.
  33. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018, Children’s Headline Indicators - Housing Stress, AIHW.
  34. Duncan A et al 2019, Getting Our House In Order: BCEC Housing Affordability Report 2019, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, Focus on Western Australia Series, Issue #12, p. x.
  35. WA Council of Social Services (WACOSS) 2019, Cost of Living 2018, WACOSS, p. 36.
  36. [1] Duncan A et al 2019, Getting Our House In Order: BCEC Housing Affordability Report 2019, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, Focus on Western Australia Series, Issue #12, p. x.
  37. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Housing Assistance in Australia 2019, AIHW.
  38. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Housing Assistance in Australia 2019 – Social Housing Dwellings, AIHW.
  39. WA Department of Communities 2019, Housing Authority Annual Report: 2018-19, WA Government.
  40. Children and young people under 18 are considered applicants when their parent(s) or guardians are applying for housing to accommodate them. In a small number of cases the young person (aged 16 to 17 years) can be applying in their own right.
  41. Considine J and Mewett S 2017, Estimating unmet housing demand and priority areas for public and affordable housing at the Local Government Area level – a housing practitioner’s approach, Department of Communities, WA Government.
  42. Ibid.
Young people in care

At 30 June 2019, there were 2,420 WA young people in care aged between 10 and 17 years, more than one-half of whom (53.3%) were Aboriginal.1

In general, young people in care have experienced significant adverse events on an ongoing basis. These may include neglect, exposure to family violence and alcohol and drug use, food scarcity and physical or sexual abuse.2

Research has highlighted that neglect is closely associated with families experiencing poverty and social exclusion, although not all parents in poverty are neglectful and not all children and young people who are neglected come from financially disadvantaged families.3

Emotional abuse (49.5%) and neglect (24.4%) are the most common reasons for WA children and young people to be subject to substantiations of notifications.

Children and young people aged 0 to 17 years who were the subjects of substantiations of notifications received by type of abuse or neglect, WA, number and per cent, 2017–18

Number

Per cent

Physical

540

11.9

Sexual

611

13.5

Emotional*

2,242

49.5

Neglect**

1,107

24.4

Not stated

30

0.7

Total

4,530

100.0

Source: AIHW 2019, Child Protection Australia: 2017–18, Table S9: Children who were the subjects of substantiations of notifications received during 2017–18, by type of abuse or neglect and sex, states and territories

* Emotional abuse refers to any act by a person having the care of a child that results in the child suffering any kind of significant emotional deprivation or trauma. Children affected by exposure to family violence are also included in this category (Source: AIHW, Child Protection Australia Glossary).

** Neglect refers to any serious act or omission by a person having the care of a child that, within the bounds of cultural tradition, constitutes a failure to provide conditions that are essential for the healthy physical and emotional development of a child (Source: AIHW, Child Protection Australia Glossary).

Children and young people living in low socioeconomic areas have the highest risk of being the subject of a child protection substantiation compared with those living in other more advantaged areas.

Children and young people aged 0 to 17 years who were the subjects of substantiations by socioeconomic area and Aboriginal status, in per cent, Australia, 2017–18

Aboriginal

Non-Aboriginal

1 - Lowest

44.6

33.3

2

26.4

22.9

3

16.9

24.8

4

9.1

12.8

5 - Highest

2.9

6.3

Source: AIHW 2019, Child Protection Australia: 2017–18, Table S12: Children who were the subjects of substantiations by socioeconomic area and Indigenous status, 2017–18

In Australia in 2017–18, 44.6 per cent of Aboriginal children and young people who were the subjects of substantiations were living in low socioeconomic areas. This compares to 33.3 per cent of non-Aboriginal children and young people.

Children and young people in care, or at risk of being taken into care, are more likely to have experienced housing instability and homelessness than other children and young people. More than one-half (54.0%) of Australian children and young people on a child protection order in 2017–18 had received specialist homelessness services in the past five years.4

In 2017–18, 683 WA children and young people (aged 0 to 17 years) were on child protection orders and had also accessed homelessness services. This is a decrease from the previous year, but a higher rate of occurrence than in 2015–16.

Children and young people aged 0 to 17 years with care and protection orders and accessing specialist homelessness services, number and rate, WA, 2015–16 to 2017–18

2015–16

2016–17

2017–18

Male

286

320

329

Female

351

386

354

Total

637

706

683

Total clients per 10,000 ERP*

2.5

2.8

2.6

Source: AIHW Specialist homelessness services 2017–18, Supplementary Historical Tables, Table 10: Children with a care and protection order, by sex, states and territories, 2015–16 to 2017–18

* Estimated resident population for age group

International research shows that housing is a significant issue for young people in contact with the child protection system; homelessness and housing instability can influence child removal, delay reunification with family and generally adversely impact child wellbeing.5 In families experiencing housing instability and homelessness, recurrent episodes of homelessness increase the likelihood of involvement with the child protection system.6

Other key aspects of coming into and being in care are experiences of transience, lack of stability and contact with multiple service providers. Typically, children and young people would have been removed from the family home and transferred into another home, either family care (kinship care), a foster care placement or residential care.

Stable care placements tend to deliver better learning and psycho-social outcomes for affected children than experiences of ongoing episodes of instability.7 Placement instability can have significant adverse effects on young people including attachment issues and a lack of safe and supportive relationships, which can lead to poor educational, socio-emotional and behavioural outcomes.8

For more information on the placement stability of children in out-of-home refer to the Safe in the home indicator.

Young people leaving care are at very high risk of poverty, social exclusion and homelessness.9,10 Research into the outcomes of leaving care highlights that young people leaving care are more likely than the general population to experience mental health issues, come in contact with the youth justice system, achieve lower educational attainment and are at higher risk of homelessness.11,12

Australian research into youth homelessness found that two thirds (63.0%) of the study population who were homeless reported they had been placed in some form of care by the time they turned 18. This was significantly higher than the proportion in the disadvantaged but not homeless control group (18.0%).13

For more information on young people in care refer to the Safe in the home indicator.

Endnotes

  1. Department of Communities 2019, Annual Report: 2018-19, WA Government p. 26.
  2. Delfabbro P et al 2009, The social and family backgrounds of infants in care and their capacity to predict subsequent abuse notifications: a study of South Australian out-of-home care 2000-2005, Children and Youth Services Review, Vol 31, p. 219-226.
  3. Scott D 2014, Understanding Child Neglect, CFCA Paper No 20, Child Family Community Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Specialist homelessness services annual report 2017–18 – Children on care and protection orders, AIHW.
  5. White R 2017, Understanding the Nexus of Child Welfare and Housing in America, in LaLiberte T et al (Eds), CW360º The Impact of Housing and Homelessness on Child Wellbeing, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW), University of Minnesota.
  6. Greenburg M and Tackney M 2017, Exploring the Intersections between Child Welfare, Housing, and Homelessness: Current Research, Policy, and Practice, in LaLiberte T et al (Eds), CW360º The Impact of Housing and Homelessness on Child Wellbeing, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW), University of Minnesota.
  7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, National framework for protecting Australia's children indicators – 4.2 Placement stability, AIHW.
  8. Australian Institute of Family Studies 2018, CFCA Resource Sheet – Children in care, AIHW.
  9. Purtell J et al 2019, Beyond 18: The Longitudinal Study on Leaving Care Wave 2 Research Report: Transitioning to post-care life, Australian Institute of Family Studies
  10. Child Family Community Australia, Supporting young people leaving out-of-home care – CFCA Paper No. 41, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  11. Kaleveld L et al 2018, Homelessness in Western Australia: A review of the research and statistical evidence, Government of Western Australia, Department of Communities, p. 34.
  12. Purtell J et al 2019, Beyond 18: The Longitudinal Study on Leaving Care Wave 2 Research Report: Transitioning to post-care life, Australian Institute of Family Studies
  13. Flatau P et al 2015,The cost of youth homelessness in Australia study: snapshot report 1, Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Salvation Army Australia, Mission Australia, Anglicare Australia, Centre for Social Impact UWA, p. 8.

 

Young people with disability

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2015 data collection reports that approximately 23,700 WA children and young people (7.5%) aged five to 14 years have reported disability.1,2

Disability is more common among children and young people living with socioeconomic disadvantage.

In 2003, almost one-fifth (18.0%) of families living in areas of the greatest socioeconomic disadvantage (the first decile) had a child with disability, compared to 13.0 per cent of all families.3

The relationship between socioeconomic disadvantage and disability is complex and bi-directional. Families living with financial disadvantage and social exclusion are more likely to have a child with disability, while having a disability or caring for a child with disability can lead to financial disadvantage.

Socioeconomic disadvantage is a risk factor for disability due to multiple intersecting elements including poorer access to quality antenatal care and childhood health services, inadequate nutrition and a higher risk of maternal smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy.4,5,6

People with disability are also more likely to have lower incomes.7

Caring for a child or young person with disability impacts a parents and/or carers ability to earn an income. In the 2015 Disability, Ageing and Carers survey, primary carers were less likely to report wages or salary as their main source of personal income (38.7%) than other carers (59.2%). The labour force participation rate for primary carers (56.3%) was also significantly lower than that for non-carers (80.3%).8

Single-parent families are more likely to have a child with disability compared to couple families. About one in five (19.0%) one-parent families with children aged 0 to 14 years had a child with disability, and 10 per cent had a child with profound/severe disability. In contrast, about one in ten (11.0%) couple families with children of this age had a child with disability and six per cent had a child with profound/severe disability.9

This issue disproportionately affects women. In 2015, 93.0 per cent of Australian primary carers (aged 25 to 44 years) of a child with disability were women.

Primary carers of children with disability by age and sex of primary carers, number and per cent, Australia, 2015

Male

Female

Total

Number

Per cent

Number

Per cent

Number

15 to 24 years

0

0.0

2,100

100.0

2,100

25 to 44 years

6,800

7.0

90,600

93.0

97,400

45 to 64 years

11,900

14.1

73,400

87.0

84,400

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015: Carers Tables – Table 38.1 Primary carers, relationship of carer to main recipient of care, by age and sex of primary carers

Recent research has found that Australians with disability are more likely to experience housing disadvantage including homelessness, poor-quality housing and housing unaffordability. The researchers concluded that 11.2 per cent of Australians with disability were living in unaffordable housing compared to 7.6 per cent of people without disability.10

People with physical disability, including children and young people, can require housing that has modifications to accommodate physical disabilities; therefore appropriate affordable housing is more difficult to access, particularly for low-income families.

There is, however, very limited up-to-date information on children and young people with disability and how this impacts parents’ ability to secure affordable and appropriate housing.

There is no recent data on WA young people with disability and their experience of financial disadvantage, social exclusion and/or housing stress and homelessness.

Endnotes

  1. ABS uses the following definition of disability: ‘In the context of health experience, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICFDH) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions… In this survey, a person has a disability if they report they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities.’ Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015, Glossary.
  2. Estimate is to be used with caution as it has a relative standard error of between 25 and 50 per cent. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015: Western Australia, Table 1.1 Persons with disability, by age and sex, 2012 and 2015 estimate, and Table 1.3 Persons with disability, by age and sex, 2012 and 2015, proportion of persons.
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, Australian Social Trends: Families with a young child with a disability, ABS.
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, Australian Social Trends: Families with a young child with a disability, ABS.
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2009, The geography of disability and economic disadvantage in Australian capital cities, Cat no DIS 54, AIHW.
  6. Centre for Community Child Health 2009, The Impact of Poverty on Early Childhood Development, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016, A profile of people with disability in Australia, ABS.
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015, Carers summary, ABS.
  9. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, Australian Social Trends: Families with a young child with a disability, ABS.
  10. Aitken Z et al 2019, Precariously placed: housing affordability, quality and satisfaction of Australians with disabilities, Disability and Society, Vol 34, No 1.
Policy implications

While most WA young people are doing well, a significant number of WA young people experience material disadvantage that can result in poorer health and wellbeing outcomes.

Social and economic disadvantage can significantly constrain young people’s health and wellbeing and can be due to family unemployment, family dysfunction (including through family violence, mental health issues or drug and alcohol misuse), a lack of suitable and affordable housing, illness or disability, and discrimination.1,2 This can then manifest in social exclusion and inequality, which in turn limits access to health care, education and employment opportunities.3,4

Financial disadvantage, social exclusion and housing stress and homelessness all contribute to young people having less capacity to engage in learning, have less access to good health care and experience stress in childhood and adolescence that can lead to mental health issues and antisocial behaviour.5,6

Improving the health and wellbeing of children in the early years has been named a key priority by the WA Government.7 One of the most effective ways to achieve this will be to reduce the rate of children and young people living with financial disadvantage and social exclusion. Regular monitoring and reporting on a child poverty measure is an essential component of meeting this goal and should be a priority for the WA government.

Welfare policies have a significant impact on poverty, particularly for children and young people. Fifty-three per cent of people below the (50.0%) poverty line rely on social security for their main source of income.8

Changes to the eligibility criteria for the Parenting Payment combined with the lack of increase to the Newstart allowance since 1994 have increased child poverty over the last 10 years.9 In particular, single parents (often mothers) who are reliant on income support for a significant component of their income are more likely to be in poverty. ACOSS report that the risk of poverty for Australian children in single-parent families was three times that of children in couple families (39.0% compared with 13.0% based on the 50% poverty line).10

Young people who are living independently from their family are at a particularly high risk of financial disadvantage and social exclusion.11 The current low level of the Youth Allowance (the fortnightly payment rate is generally lower than Newstart) combined with a lack of services targeted at young people under 18 years of age and living independently have resulted in this group of young people being highly vulnerable to significant financial stress and homelessness.

Government departments and service providers need to assess the impact of proposed laws and policies and their programs on the rights and wellbeing of children and young people. The WA and Commonwealth governments should develop a process of performing Child Impact Assessments when passing legislation or developing policy, programs and services. This will provide a greater understanding of how government policies, including welfare policies, impact children and young people. For more information refer to the Commissioner’s report:

Commissioner for Children and Young People 2019, Improving the odds for WA’s vulnerable children and young people, Commissioner for Children and Young People WA.

Aboriginal children and young people are disproportionately affected across all areas of disadvantage. Research using data from the 2016 Census has concluded that in 2016, 31.4 per cent of Aboriginal Australians were living in poverty (50.0% median income before housing costs).12

Aboriginal people living in remote locations are most likely to be living in poverty and/or be socially excluded through limited access to appropriate housing, health services and education. In 2016, more than one-half of Aboriginal people in very remote locations were living in income poverty.13

Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has shown that children living in families with members of the stolen generation are even more likely to be socially excluded, including being more likely to miss school, experience stress and have poor health.14

The continuing overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people across all indicators of disadvantage calls for immediate and more effective ways of working to address the underpinning issues and significantly improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people across the state.

Importantly, services and programs must address Aboriginal children and young people’s needs in the context of their family, community and culture. To do this the government ought to commit to enabling Aboriginal-led solutions as the model for service design and delivery for Aboriginal communities in WA.

Access to stable and safe housing and accommodation is critical to addressing long-term disadvantage facing many WA children and young people. Without a secure and affordable home, families are unable to provide an environment for their children to feel safe, be able to learn and be healthy. A stable and affordable home is also the first essential step to enable parents to gain employment and financial independence.

Young people who first experienced homelessness as children are more likely to experience persistent homelessness in adulthood. This has an adverse impact on the individual’s wellbeing, livelihood, and life opportunities, and results in significant costs to government over the long term due to higher health needs, higher likelihood of reliance on welfare payments and increased likelihood of contact with the justice system.15

Families at risk of homelessness are often experiencing multiple and intersecting difficulties such as leaving family and domestic violence, family breakdown, financial difficulties, drug and alcohol issues and legal disputes.16,17 However, there are two key drivers that ought to be the focus of any policy effort addressing homelessness for children and young people and families more broadly: poverty and family and domestic violence.

Extreme poverty is the strongest predictor of homelessness in families.18 At the same time, almost one-half (49.2%) of all children and young people presenting to homelessness services report family and domestic violence as the main reason.

Safe, affordable and permanent housing in WA is essential to assist women, children and young people leaving violence. Research from the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) reported that refuges in WA are always full and ‘struggling with capacity’.19 Family and domestic violence victims therefore sometimes decide to remain in, or return to, a violent relationship because of the lack of available and appropriate housing.20

Critically, housing and homelessness services, policies, and legislation must be designed in a child-centred way, placing the needs of children and young people at the centre of service planning. Where children and young people are escaping violence with their families, it is critical that long term housing options are available with appropriate wrap-around support services.

To address socioeconomic disadvantage more broadly, the WA Government should establish a Child Wellbeing Strategy, with a priority on targeted, early intervention for vulnerable children, young people and their families. For more information refer to the Commissioner’s report: Improving the Odds for WA’s vulnerable children and young people.

Young people leaving care are particularly vulnerable to adverse outcomes, including mental health issues, low educational attainment, homelessness and high risk of involvement with the youth justice system. In 2018 the WA Auditor General concluded that about 65 per cent of young people leaving care who were eligible for support did not get it early enough, or at all.21 The review also concluded that the Department of Communities does not know if young people leaving its care receive the support they need, or what happens to them.22

It is essential that the WA Government implement the recommendations of the Auditor General to ensure young people leaving care are adequately supported.

Data gaps

Child poverty is a critical issue for children and young people and yet there is no agreed national definition of child poverty and it is also not measured on a regular basis by any government department – state or federal.

There is limited data on the prevalence of youth homelessness in WA, particularly considering young people under 18 years of age.

Further data and research is needed on poverty and social exclusion experienced by vulnerable groups, such as Aboriginal children and young people, CALD children and young people and LGBTI children and young people.

Endnotes

  1. McLachlan R et al 2013, Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia, Productivity Commission Staff Working Paper.
  2. Australian Government 2009, A Stronger, Fairer Australia, Social Inclusion Unit, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  3. Duncan A et al 2014, Falling through the cracks: poverty and disadvantage in Australia, Focus on the States Report Series No.1, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.
  4. Australian Government 2009, A Stronger, Fairer Australia, Social Inclusion Unit, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  5. Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) 2009, Technical Report: The wellbeing of young Australians, ARACY, p. 27.
  6. Miranti R et al. 2018, Child Social Exclusion, Poverty And Disadvantage In Australia, NATSEM, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA), University of Canberra, p. 8-9.
  7. Department of Premier and Cabinet 2019, Our Priorities, WA Government.
  8. Davidson P et al 2018, Poverty in Australia, 2018, ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No 2, p. 12.
  9. Ibid, p. 13.
  10. Ibid, p. 24.
  11. MacKenzie D et al 2016, The Cost of Youth Homelessness in Australia: Research Briefing, Swinburne University of Technology et al, p. 2.
  12. Markham F and Biddle N 2018, Income, Poverty and Inequality: 2016 Census Paper No. 2, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, p. 16.
  13. Markham F and Biddle N 2018, Income, Poverty and Inequality: 2016 Census Paper No. 2, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, p. 33.
  14. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Children living in households with members of the Stolen Generations, Cat no IHW 214, AIHW, p. iv.
  15. MacKenzie D et al 2016, The Cost of Youth Homelessness in Australia: Research Briefing, Swinburne University of Technology et al, p. 2-3.
  16. Wood L 2019, Safe as Houses Evaluation Report, School of Population and Global Health: University of Western Australia, p. 1.
  17. Australian Government 2008, The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness, Australian Government, p. 24.
  18. Kaleveld L et al 2018, Homelessness in Western Australia: A review of the research and statistical evidence, Government of Western Australia, Department of Communities, p. 31.
  19. Flanagan K et al 2019, Housing outcomes after domestic and family violence, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited (AHURI) Final Report 311, AHURI, p. 53.
  20. Ibid, p. 4.
  21. WA Auditor General 2018, Young People Leaving Care – Report 2 August 2018-19, WA Government, p. 5.
  22. Ibid, p. 6.
Further resources

For more information on children and young people’s access to material basics refer to the following resources:

Endnotes

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018, Australia’s health 2018, Australia’s health series no 16, AUS 221, AIHW.
  2. Saunders P et al 2018, Material Deprivation and Social Exclusion Among Young Australians: A child-focused approach (SPRC Report 24/18), Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW.
  3. Barnett M 2008, Economic Disadvantage in Complex Family Systems: Expansion of Family Stress Models, Clinical child and family psychology review, Vol 11, No 3.