Australian Bureau of Statistics
2050.0.55.002 - Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, Aug 2011
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/08/2011 First Issue
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This edition of the Position Paper includes additional analysis undertaken on the range of key issues identified in the Paper.
THEMES IN THE CONSULTATION FEEDBACK
The submissions supported rigorous quality estimation of homelessness and highlighted the importance of consistent, repeatable and transparent estimates. Some submissions requested that a continuous quality assurance plan be implemented to continue to improve and maintain high quality estimates. It is expected that the new ABS Homelessness Statistics Reference Group will play a key role in guiding the direction of that plan and in advising on the quality aspects of developments that are underway or planned for the future. This includes a final methodology that will be used to report on homelessness from the 2011 Census.
No submissions put the view that the ABS should not produce homelessness estimates from the Census, and many commented that the Census was currently the best source on which to base a point-in-time estimate of homelessness in a comprehensive way.
Many submissions argued that the Review had been too focussed on identifying the possible overestimates in the former methodology, and the majority of submissions sought a clearer articulation and possible scaling of areas of greatest underestimation (for example for youth, people fleeing domestic and family violence, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people).
Other themes that were common were:
Several initiatives are underway with the 2011 Census that will improve enumeration, and potentially also estimation, of the homeless population. While exact numbers are not available for the 2001 Census, the resources for specialist field staff dedicated to the homelessness count were increased in the 2006 Census to over 250 staff. For the 2011 Census, these resources have been increased to over 550 specialist field staff. In addition, the ABS has been working with homeless service providers in each state and territory to encourage accurate reporting of no usual address by all homeless people including those who are 'couch surfing'.
Definition of homelessness
On balance, the submission process has surfaced significant interest in a review of the definition of homelessness used in Australia, whether or not that review would confirm the continued use of a cultural definition (with or without adjustments to its current application), or lead to the development of a new definition. ABS will include this review in its work program and progress the issues through the new HSRG.
New category - 'Persons staying in other temporary lodgings'
There was wide-spread support for the creation of the new category in the reviewed estimates of 'Persons staying in other temporary lodgings' which reclassified these people from the boarding house category. These people were reported in the Census without a usual address and were staying in public hospitals, private hospitals, hostels for the disabled etc. The use of this new category will be further explored by ABS and the findings taken to the HSRG for advice.
There were several different views on measuring homelessness in boarding houses, ranging from the conceptual through to identification in enumeration through to estimation methodology. The ABS will pursue quality lists of boarding houses for use when enumerating future Censuses. ABS will look closely at the classification of boarding houses during enumeration to assess in real time the quality of enumeration to support adjustments in presenting results for this group. Any new lists that become available during processing will be reviewed. ABS will also continue its analysis of derivation rules for this complex aspect of estimation and take its findings for refining the rules for identifying boarding houses to the HSRG.
Natural disaster areas
The ABS is developing a strategy to analyse and report on homelessness in areas affected by recent disaster events which it will take to the HSRG.
Many submissions recognised both the challenges in the estimation of homelessness among youth for whom a usual address is reported in the Census, and the imperative of solving measurement for a significant group of young homeless people. The ABS is therefore developing a small and targeted quality study of homeless school students just after the Census to help understand the possible level of homelessness, and in particular, inform on how this is manifested in Census reporting. If successful, the study will also scope a possible methodology for a more frequent nationally representative survey of homeless school students. Again, ABS's work in this area will be guided by the HSRG.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
The Discussion Paper described a range of issues associated with estimating homeless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. A range of work program activities, including community focus group work on concepts and measurement, are planned. It is expected that the increased effort in the 2011 Census to improve the enumeration of Indigenous Australians will be a very good first step, but being able to differentiate between those who may be homeless and/or living in overcrowded circumstances remains a challenge.
Other key issues
Also raised in consultation and discussed briefly in this Position Paper, are conceptual and /or measurement issues associated with:
The Future directions section of this Position Paper brings together the future steps for each issue discussed throughout the paper, as well as highlighting directions in the wider ABS homelessness statistics work program, including:
FINALISING THE METHODOLOGICAL REVIEW
ABS will work with the HSRG to finalise, for publication in May 2012, a methodology for producing official estimates of the number of people enumerated in the Census that were likely to have been homeless on Census night. There are many aspects of the methodology that need to be finalised, as noted in this Position Paper. Methodological aspects that require analysis of Census data during input processing will need to be resolved by the end of 2011, while methodological aspects that analyse output variables can be resolved shortly thereafter, and will be published in May 2012, along with recompiled estimates for both 2001 and 2006. Official estimates of homelessness from the 2011 Census will be published after second release Census variables are published in October 2012.
The ABS acknowledges the effort and contribution of the wide range of stakeholders who participated in the consultation on the Discussion Paper. The ABS particularly acknowledges the contributions from homelessness services organisations and their staff.
This page last updated 4 August 2011
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