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Report on Government Services 2024


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 $76.3 billion in 2022‑23, a real increase of 45.9% over the past four years, primarily due to increases in expenditure on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). For the 2021-22 financial year (the most recent financial year for which data are available across all sections), the community services sector represented around 18.9% of total government expenditure covered in this report.

The largest component of community services expenditure was on the NDIS and specialist disability support services ($37.4 billion, table 15A.1), followed by aged care ($28.3 billion, table 14A.3), child protection services ($9.4 billion, table 16A.8) and youth justice services ($1.3 billion, table 17A.10).

Flows in the sector

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

Governments regulate 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) (AIHW 2022a)
  • 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, the limited availability of residential aged care places can affect the demand for public hospital beds. Australian, state and territory governments offer transition care programs to minimise inappropriate lengths of hospitalisation for older people (Aus Gov 2022)
  • 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 recidivism (Almquist and Walker 2022)
  • 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 (Baidawi and Sheehan 2019). 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 (AIHW 2022b).

Challenges of an ageing population on the sector

Australia’s population is ageing due to increasing life expectancy and declining fertility rates. The 2023 Intergenerational Report notes the ageing population as Australia’s greatest demographic challenge (Aus Gov 2023). The median age is expected to increase by 4.6 years to 43.1 in 2062-63. The share of the population aged 15-64 will fall by 3.5 percentage points to 61.2% between 2022-23 and 2062-63. In the same period, the share of the population aged 65 or over is expected to increase by 6.1 percentage points to reach 23.4%. 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 childcare settings). According to the 2021 Census, of the 12 million people aged 15 years and over who were employed, around 11.5% worked in the occupation ‘community and personal service worker’, up from 10.8% in the 2016 Census (ABS 2022a). This occupation group includes welfare, disability and family support workers, community workers and aged or disabled carers. The 2021 Census showed that 3.0% of employed people worked as aged or disabled carers, up from 1.2% in 2016. Welfare support workers (including parole and residential care officers and community, family support and youth workers) rose from 0.5% in 2016 to 0.9% in 2021.

The role of informal carers across Australia

Carers play a vital role in supporting older people and people with disability to remain in their homes and communities. Although some care is provided formally by paid personnel, it is often undertaken informally by friends and family. According to the 2021 Census, around 2.48 million people (9.7% of the population) reported providing unpaid care, help or assistance to family members or others because of disability, long-term health conditions and problems related to old age (ABS 2021). The majority of people providing unpaid assistance (60.2%) were women (ABS 2022b).

The 2018 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) (ABS 2018) reported that around 861,600 people (3.5% 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. The majority of primary carers (71.8%) were women (ABS 2018). Section 15 of this report includes further information on carers of people with disability.


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 2 October 2023).

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2022a, Occupation (OCCP) by employment (EMFP) and Age (AGE5P) [2016 and 2021 Census TableBuilder] (accessed 18 October 2022).

—— 2022b, 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).

—— 2021, Unpaid work and care: Census, ABS, (accessed 2 October 2023).

—— 2018, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018, ABS, (accessed 2 October 2023).

Australian Government 2023, 2023 Intergenerational Report, (accessed 2 October 2023).

—— 2022, Transition Care Programme resources, (accessed 2 October 2023).

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2022a, Health of people with disability, (accessed 2 October 2023).

—— 2022b, Young people under youth justice supervision and their interaction with the child protection system 2020-21, Cat. no. CSI 29. Canberra: AIHW, (accessed 2 October 2023).

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 2 October 2023).

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