2.49 Children may be the direct beneficiaries of many services offered by the government. In particular, student recipients of income support and children who are unemployed or homeless are often extensively involved in the legal processes surrounding application for and receipt of government assistance.
Unemployment and income support
2.50 In 1995-96, the full-time unemployment rate for young people aged 15 to 19 grew to 28.1%. This is the highest rate of unemployment for any age group in Australia.
2.51 On 30 June 1996, there were approximately 34 200 young people receiving the Youth Training Allowance (YTA), the main income support benefit for unemployed young people under the age of 18, and an additional 2 000 young people under 18 continued to receive benefits under the Job Search Allowance. In May 1996, unemployment benefits paid to young people under 18 represented 4% of all unemployment payments made by the Department of Social Security (DSS).
2.52 Young students also receive income support through educational assistance programs such as Austudy or Abstudy. In some cases, this assistance is paid directly to the student, such as when the student qualifies for the independent rates of these programs. In 1995-96, the Austudy program assisted 204 900 secondary school students. Approximately 26 283 primary and secondary students benefited from Abstudy in 1994-95. Up to April 1997, Student Assistance Centres had processed student recipients of Austudy and Abstudy for 1997 in the proportions indicated in the following table.
Table 2.13 Number of Austudy and Abstudy beneficiaries processed by Student Assistance Centres by age, January to April 1997
under 16 years old
16 years old
17 years old
2.53 Another income support measure received by children and young people is the Special Benefit, the benefit of last resort for people who have no other means of support and who do not qualify for other income support measures. In May 1996, there were 900 young people aged under 18 receiving the Special Benefit.
Homelessness and assisted accommodation
2.54 The extent of homelessness in Australia has been a contentious issue for many years. It is very difficult to estimate the number of homeless children in Australia. However, most statistics indicate a significant increase in youth homelessness since 1991. Following a census of Australian secondary schools Mackenzie and Chamberlain estimated that in May 1994 there were 21 000 homeless young people aged 12 to 18 living in Australia. Many homeless young people have significant dealings with legal processes, particularly those processes associated with income support and housing assistance.
2.55 Statistics from DSS and the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DEETYA) help paint a picture of Australia’s homeless children and the extent to which they are involved in legal processes. According to DSS, on 14 June 1996 there were 9 306 young people under the age of 18 who were receiving payments at the homeless rate from various income support programs. Around 6% of these recipients were identified as Indigenous young people and another 6% were identified as young people of non-English speaking backgrounds In addition, from January to June 1996, it was estimated that 6 001 students under the age of 18 were receiving Austudy or Abstudy at the student homeless rate. Estimates of students receiving these benefits at the homeless rate in 1997 is presented below.
Table 2.14 Number of Austudy and Abstudy beneficiaries at homeless rates processed by Student Assistance Centres by age, January to April 1997
under 16 years old
16 years old
17 years old
2.56 Another indication of homelessness or risk of homelessness among young people and children and the extent to which these young people may be involved in legal processes is the number of young people assisted by supported accommodation assistance programs (SAAP) across Australia. Young people aged 15 to 19 constitute the largest age group of SAAP clients: approximately 20% of all SAAP clients are young people in this age group. From July to December 1996, housing and accommodation assistance was required in 230 cases where the client was under age 15 (72.1% of all cases in this age group) and in 5 591 cases where the client was aged 15 to 19 (79.1% of all cases in this age group). Other assistance provided by SAAP to young people in these age groups were general support and advocacy (65.2% of cases with a client under 15 years old and 69.5% of cases with a client aged 15 to 19) and financial or employment assistance (21.3% and 36.5% respectively).
2.57 Across Australia, 11.5% of all SAAP cases with a young person as a client involved Indigenous young people and 6.3% involved young people from non-English speaking backgrounds. Other statistics also indicate that Indigenous young people may be over-represented among homeless children. In 1992, over half of the street children in Perth were estimated to be Aboriginal — some as young as 8 or 9 years of age. In Adelaide, one outreach service reported that on a weekend night 70% of young people without accommodation were Aboriginal.
 DEETYA Annual Report 1995-96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 12. The full-time unemployment rate measures the number of unemployed 15 to 19 year olds looking for full-time employment as a share of the full-time labour force of the same age. The full-time labour force consists of 15 to 19 year olds who are either unemployed and looking for full-time work or working full-time. As most 15 to 19 year olds are attending educational institutions and may only be able to or want to work part-time, the full-time unemployment rate is equivalent to 7.2% of the Australian population in that age group. In August 1997, the full-time unemployment rate for 15 to 19 year olds was 27.3%: ABS Labour Force Australia Preliminary ABS Canberra 1997.
 DSS Annual Report 1995-96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 160. See paras 9.25-33 for a discussion of the Common Youth Allowance which is to replace these benefits.
 DSS Annual Report 1995-96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 154.
 DEETYA Annual Report 1995-96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 151-152. Breakdowns of recipients are provided only for secondary school students because it is assumed that tertiary students would generally be above the age of 18 years.
 ABS Yearbook Australia 1996 ABS Canberra 1996, 293. 1994-95 data are given for Abstudy assistance because the 1995-96 data did not differentiate between school and university students. In 1995-96 a total of 48 000 students benefitted from Abstudy: DEETYA Annual Report 1995-96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 164.
 Youth and Students Segment, Cth Services Delivery Agency A Discussion Paper: Youth Servicing in the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency unpublished 1997 tables 4-7.
 Recipients may include migrants who have not yet met the residency requirements, women in the later stages of pregnancy or children under school leaving age who are not eligible for YTA or Austudy and who are without parental support.
 DSS Annual Report 1995-96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 266.
 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Community Affairs Report on Aspects of Youth Homelessness AGPS Canberra 1995, 34.
 AIHW Australia’s Welfare Services & Assistance 1995 AGPS Canberra 1995, 49.
 DSS Annual Report 1995-96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 161. The programs under which young people received this rate included Special Benefit, Sickness Allowance, Job Search Allowance and YTA.
 DSS Annual Report 1995-96 AGPS Canberra 1996, 161.
 Youth Homeless Taskforce First Report of the Prime Ministerial Youth Homeless Taskforce: Framework for the Youth Homelessness Pilot Programme AGPS Canberra 1996, 47. See paras 9.44-48 for a discussion of these rates.
 Youth and Students Segment, Cth Services Delivery Agency A Discussion Paper: Youth Servicing in the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency unpublished 1997, 9-10 tables 8, 9.
 AIHW SAAP National Data Collection Report July-December 1996 AIHW Canberra 1997, 15.
 id 39. The number of cases rather than clients is given here as some clients may be assisted more than once and therefore have more than one case.
 id 24.
 Boss et al (eds) Profile of Young Australians Churchill Livingstone Melbourne 1995, 175.