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Report on Government Services 2023


F Community services

Main aims of services within the sector

Community services provide support and assistance to individuals, families and groups to maximise their potential and enhance community wellbeing.

Services included in the sector

In the context of government service delivery, 'community services' include services providing assistance to specific groups with an identified need for additional support. This may include children and young people, families, older people and people with disability. Community services can overlap with other sectors, including health and early childhood services.

This Report provides detailed performance information on the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of the following community services:

Information on other related service areas is available elsewhere in this Report (Part E Health, including Services for mental health and Part G Housing and homelessness).

Government expenditure in the sector

Total government expenditure for the community services in this Report was around $65.9 billion in 2021‑22, a real increase of 31.3 per cent over the past three years; primarily due to increases in expenditure on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). For the 2020-21 financial year (the most recent financial year for which data are available across all sections) this represented around 18.6 per cent of total government expenditure covered in this Report.

The largest component of community services expenditure was on the NDIS and specialist disability support services ($31.3 billion, table 15A.1), followed by aged care ($25.1 billion, table 14A.3), child protection services ($8.2 billion, table 16A.8) and youth justice services ($1.2 billion, table 17A.10).

Flows in the sector

The community services sector is diverse. Some services are funded and provided by governments, other services are funded by governments but provided by the not-for-profit sector or the private sector (for example, private residential aged care services and private providers under the NDIS).

Governments have a role in regulating the quality and safety of services across the sector (for example, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and various state and territory entities). Selected information on complaints, service quality and safety are available in service-specific sections.

Community services often interface with other government services. Although this Report presents aged care services, services for people with disability and child protection and youth justice services as separate sections, these sections are interconnected and relate to other sections in the Report, for example:

  • the disability sector is linked to health services as some long-term health conditions might cause disability and disability can lead to health problems (for example, disability may limit participation in social and physical activities)1
  • the aged care sector is linked to health services. High demand for these services can result in challenges with appropriately meeting consumer needs. For example, limited availability of residential aged care places can affect demand for public hospital beds. Australian, State and Territory governments offer transition care programs to minimise inappropriate lengths of hospitalisation for older people2
  • there are interactions between homelessness and youth justice services. Young people experiencing homelessness have disproportionate contact with the criminal justice system and housing insecurity on exit from youth justice detention is associated with recidivism3
  • there are interactions between child protection and youth justice services. One study of children involved in the Victorian criminal justice system found that almost one quarter had current or former involvement with child protection services.4 Another study found that more than half of young people aged 10-17 years under youth justice supervision during 2020-21 had an interaction with the child protection system in the 5 years from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2021.5

Challenges of an ageing population on the sector

Australia’s population is ageing due to increasing life expectancy and declining fertility rates. The 2021 Intergenerational Report notes the ageing population as Australia’s greatest demographic challenge.6 From 2019-20 to 2060-61, the number of people aged 65 and older is projected to double to 8.9 million, while the number of people aged 85 and older is projected to more than triple to 1.9 million. These changes will increase demand for government services and have implications for government expenditure.

The community services workforce

Estimates of the community services workforce are difficult to derive due to overlapping occupations and industries (for example, health and welfare support in education and child care settings). According to the 2021 Census, of the 12 million people aged 15 years and over who were employed, around 11.5 per cent worked in the occupation ‘community and personal service worker’, up from 10.8 per cent in the 2016 Census.7 This occupation group includes welfare, disability and family support workers, community workers and aged/disabled carers. The 2021 Census showed 3 per cent of employed people worked as aged or disabled carers, up from 1.2 per cent in 2016. Welfare support workers (including parole and residential care officers, and community, family support and youth workers) rose from 0.5 per cent in 2016 to 0.9 per cent in 2021.

The role of informal carers across Australia

Carers play a vital role supporting older people and people with disability to remain in their homes and communities. Although some care is provided by formal providers, it is often undertaken informally by friends and family. According to the 2021 Census, around 2.48 million people (9.7 per cent of the population) reported providing unpaid care, help or assistance to family members or others because of disability, long-term health condition and problems related to old age.8 The majority of people providing unpaid assistance (60.2 per cent) were women.9

The 2018 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers reported around 861 600 people (3.5 per cent of the Australian population aged 15 years and over) were primary carers of people with disability or older people, providing support in one or more core activities of self-care, mobility and communication.10Section 15 of this Report includes further information on carers of people with disability.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2022), Health of people with disability. (accessed 7 October 2022). Locate Footnote 1 above
  2. Australian Government (2022), Transition Care Programme, (accessed 7 October 2022). Locate Footnote 2 above
  3. Almquist, L. and Walker, S. C. (2022), Reciprocal associations between housing instability and youth criminal legal involvement: a scoping review, Health and Justice, 10 (15), (accessed 7 October 2022). Locate Footnote 3 above
  4. Baidawi, S. and Sheehan, R. (2019), ‘Cross-over kids’: Effective responses to children and young people in the youth justice and statutory child protection systems. Report to the Criminology Research Advisory Council. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), (accessed 7 October 2022). Locate Footnote 4 above
  5. AIHW (2022), Young people under youth justice supervision and their interaction with the child protection system 2020-21. Cat. no. CSI 29. Canberra: AIHW. (accessed 14 December 2022). Locate Footnote 5 above
  6. Australian Government (2021), 2021 Intergenerational Report. (accessed 7 October 2022). Locate Footnote 6 above
  7. ABS (2022), Occupation (OCCP) by employment (EMFP) and Age (AGE5P) [2016 and 2021 Census TableBuilder], accessed 18 October 2022. Locate Footnote 7 above
  8. ABS (2021), Unpaid work and care: Census. ABS. (accessed 7 October 2022). Locate Footnote 8 above
  9. ABS (2022), Unpaid assistance to a person with a disability, health condition, or due to old age (UNCAREP) by sex (SEXP) [2021 Census TableBuilder], accessed 18 October 2022. Locate Footnote 9 above
  10. ABS (2018), Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018. ABS. (accessed 6 October 2022). Locate Footnote 10 above

Impact of COVID-19 on data for the Community services sector

COVID-19 may affect data in this Report in a number of ways. This includes in respect of actual performance (that is, the impact of COVID-19 on service delivery from 2020 to 2022 which is reflected in the data results), and the collection and processing of data (that is, the ability of data providers to undertake data collection and process results for inclusion in the Report).

Social distancing restrictions introduced from March 2020 are likely to have had an impact on the community services sector. Any impacts which are specific to the service areas covered in this Report are noted in sections 14, 15, 16 and 17.

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