How can we better help people who’ve suffered a life-changing hardship to get back on their feet?

What’s the problem?

Alt text Anyone in society can experience an extreme event in life that throws them off track, such as illness or being the victim of violence.

For those with family or community resources available, support can be provided in their time of need and recovery can be relatively quick.

For those without anyone else to fall back on, a life changing hardship can trigger ongoing personal and health challenges. In extreme cases this can result in a downward spiral with the loss of employment and even homelessness.

For those that have already struggled with considerable personal disadvantage throughout their lives, a significant life event can be a major disruption for which they have no resources to deal with. Likewise, people with a disability or long-term health condition can also find it hard to get back on their feet.

Seven things you need to know

  • According to ABS data from 2014, 2.5 million people aged 15 years and over reported they had experienced homelessness at some time in their lives

  • Adults who had been homeless in the last 10 years were much more likely to report having a disability or long-term health condition (64%) compared with those who had never been homeless (37%).

  • Adults who had been homeless in the last 10 years were more than twice as likely to be in a one parent family (17% compared with 8%) and much more likely to be living alone (28% compared with 12%) or in a group household (9% compared with 3%) than adults who had never been homeless.

  • In 2010, people who had been homeless within the last 10 years were almost three times as likely to report being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the 12 months prior to the survey, compared with those who never had been homeless (25% compared with 9%).

  • While there are services available to assist people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, 60% of the 1.1 million adults who had experienced at least one episode of homelessness in the previous 10 years reported that they had not sought assistance of formal services when homeless. Most (81%) of those who did not seek assistance felt that they had not needed it.

  • According to ABS data, in situations of homelessness, 68% of people had stayed with a relative, 52% with a friend, 13% had slept rough or in an abandoned building, and 7.7% had stayed in a shelter or refuge.

  • The labour force participation rate of carers aged 15 years and over is 56.3% compared with 69.3% of non-carers. The estimated replacement value of unpaid care provided in 2015 is $60.3 billion - over $1 billion per week, or 3.8% of Gross Domestic Product.

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