Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Catalogue Number
4446.0 - Disability, Australia, 2009  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/05/2011   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product

Need for assistance

NEED FOR ASSISTANCE

A primary function of the SDAC is to provide information on the numbers of Australians needing assistance because of disability or the effects of old age. In 2009, all people with disability and anyone over the age of 60 were asked a series of questions about their need for assistance. Some of these questions were asked only of specific age groups, while others were asked of all ages.

The questions related to whether they needed help with one or more of ten specified activities, the degree to which this help was needed, who provided the help and whether more help was needed than was currently being given. The ten activities were:
  • self-care;
  • mobility;
  • communication;
  • cognitive or emotional tasks;
  • health care;
  • reading/writing tasks;
  • transport;
  • household chores;
  • property maintenance; and
  • meal preparation

The first three activities (self-care, mobility and communication) are regarded as being fundamental to daily living and are therefore termed 'core-activity' tasks.


HAS THE NEED FOR ASSISTANCE CHANGED SINCE 2003?

When interpreting disability statistics it is important to note that although there was a decrease in the prevalence of disability between 2003 (20.0%) and 2009 (18.5%), there was an actual increase in the estimated number of people with disability from 2003 (3,958,300) and 2009 (4,026,213).

With the decrease in the proportion of people with disability in the overall population, there was a corresponding decline in the proportion of those needing assistance in several of the 10 activity areas stipulated above (Graph 22).

Some of these changes are possibly related to lifestyle options that have changed between 2003 and 2009 and may continue to change in the foreseeable future. For example, increased use of online services has possibly led to there being less need for assistance with transport and paperwork, while the tendency to downsize accommodation as one ages has possibly led to less need for assistance with property maintenance. There were statistically significant decreases in need for assistance with the following activities:
  • need for assistance with paperwork decreased from 2003 (10%) to 2009 (9%);
  • need for assistance with transport decreased from 2003 (23%) to 2009 (21%); and
  • need for assistance with property maintenance decreased from 2003 (33%) to 2009 (30%).

There were small increases in the need for assistance with the three core-activities, but with the exception of mobility, these were not statistically significant. In the case of mobility, more people required assistance in 2009 (23%) than in 2003 (21%). These findings were consistent with the fact that there were more people with profound core-activity limitations in 2009 than in 2003.



WHAT TASKS DO PEOPLE NEED THE MOST HELP WITH?
In 2009, 59% of the 3.8 million people with a disability living in households, reported that they needed assistance in at least one of the activity areas. The remainder (41%) had a disability but did not need assistance.

The three most common areas of need for assistance were property maintenance (30%), health care (27%) and household chores (25%) (Graph 23).



DO ALL PEOPLE NEED THE SAME SORT OF HELP?

Some people needed more help in specific areas than others, the pattern of need differing according to the level of disability (Table 24):
  • those with the most severe forms of disability had the highest need for assistance with all tasks;
  • the greater the level of disability, the higher the need for assistance with core-activities. For example, although only 15% of all people with disability reported that they needed assistance with self-care tasks, 66% of people with profound core-activity limitation needed this assistance, followed by 39% of those with severe core-activity limitation. This same pattern of need for assistance with core-activities was also observed for both mobility and communication tasks;
  • of the three core-activity areas, people with profound core-activity limitation needed the most assistance with mobility (88%) compared to self-care (66%) or communication (29%). Similarly, people with severe core-activity limitation needed the most assistance with mobility (72%) compared to self-care (39%) or communication (13%); and
  • people with moderate and mild core-activity limitation needed the most assistance with property maintenance and household chores.





AGE AND NEED FOR ASSISTANCE

In 2009 there were 1.0 million people with profound or severe core-activity limitations living in households. These people had the greatest need for assistance with core-activities, but both age and the level of disability appeared to have an impact on the need for assistance (Graph 25).

Young people had significantly higher need for assistance with communication than older people. Of all 15-19 year olds with profound/severe core-activity limitation, 55% reported need for assistance with communication while only 12% of those aged 85 years and over reported the same. In the case of younger people, this was likely to be because of communication disorders such as autism or developmental delay. Amongst older people, however, a higher proportion of the communication problems were more likely to relate to the onset of age-related hearing problems and dementia related conditions.



CHILDREN AND NEED FOR ASSISTANCE

In 2009, a set of age appropriate questions on need for assistance with core-activity tasks was asked about children aged 0-4 years with a disability. In addition, all children with disability aged 14 years and under were asked a set of age appropriate questions relating to cognitive and emotional support. Graph 26 shows the results for each of the areas of interest:

Communication
This was the most dominant area of need for assistance amongst children. Of all children aged 5-9 years with profound severe disability, 73% needed assistance with communication. Early intervention strategies may account for the slight decrease in need for assistance for children aged 10-14 years (65%).

Cognitive/emotional tasks
There was a steep rise in need for assistance with cognitive tasks for children with profound or severe disability between the ages of 0-4 years (49%) and 5-9 years (70%). This is possibly because signs of developmental delay become more apparent in a school environment focused specifically on the development of cognitive ability, and are therefore reported more often.

Mobility
There was a steady increase in need for assistance with mobility. Of children aged 0-4 years with profound/severe core activity limitation, 44% needed assistance with mobility compared to 56% of those aged 5-9 years and 65% of those aged 10-14 years. As children grow in height and weight, it is possible that degenerative conditions affecting their mobility become more pronounced. The desire to be mobile also increases at this time, increasing the need for assistance.

Self-care
Children aged 5-9 years with profound or severe core-activity limitations generally had higher need for assistance with self-care (56%) than children aged 0-4 years (41%) or those aged 10-14 years (44%). There are possibly several reasons:
  • the early years of school (0-5 years) mark a transition from home to school where developmental delay becomes more apparent without the constant support of parents;
  • in the early months of life, children are usually under the care of parents and it is possibly difficult to whether their dependency is related to being young or having a disability. The impact of a disabling condition may not be fully apparent during these years; and
  • the decrease in need for assistance for children aged 10-14 years is possibly a result of their learning to manage some aspects of self-care better, often as a result of previous assistance.



Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window

Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.