4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/10/2016   
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DISABILITY


People with disability have the right to freedom, respect, equality and dignity. Australia's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008 reflects the Australian Government's commitment to take action and support a coordinated plan across all levels of government to improve the lives of people with disability, their families and carers.

The Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) collects information about the wellbeing, functioning and social and economic participation of people with disability in Australia. This information is important in providing an evidence base for informing policies and planning services to drive better outcomes for people with disability.

The SDAC was developed to align with the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health 2001 (ICFDH). The survey defines disability as any limitation, restriction or impairment which restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months. The survey differentiates between those who have long-term health conditions that limit their activities (that is, those with disability) and those who have long-term conditions without restrictions and limitations.

In 2015, almost one in five Australians reported living with disability (18.3% or 4.3 million people). A further 22.1% of Australians had a long-term health condition but no disability, while the remaining 59.5% had neither disability nor a long-term health condition.


Conceptual Framework: All persons, by disability status, 2015

Image: Conceptual Framework: All persons, by disability status, 2015


Source: ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings - 2015

Some 3.7 million Australians with disability, had a specific limitation or restriction such as a schooling or employment restriction (e.g. unable to attend or required special equipment) and/or limitation with core activities—communication, mobility or self-care.

For core activity limitations, SDAC provides information on four levels of severity:
  • profound limitation (people with the greatest need for help or who are unable to do an activity)
  • severe limitation (people who sometimes need help and/or have difficulty)
  • moderate limitation (people who need no help but have difficulty)
  • mild limitation (people who need no help and have no difficulty, but use aids or have limitations).

These levels of limitation are described in more detail in the Glossary.

People with profound or severe limitations are often grouped together in the SDAC results for the purposes of understanding those Australians with the greatest need for assistance. In 2015, 1.4 million Australians had a profound or severe limitation with these core activities, almost half of whom were aged 65 years or over. Almost 600,000 people had a moderate limitation while 1.4 million had a mild limitation. Between 2012 and 2015 there was a decrease in the proportion of people with a profound or severe limitation, from 6.1% to 5.8%. The proportion with a moderate level dropped from 2.8% to 2.6% and the proportion with a mild level remained stable at 6.1%.


Population characteristics

In 2015, 18.6% of females and 18.0% of males had disability. The difference between males and females was most pronounced amongst people in older age groups with a profound or severe limitation. For example, 68.3% of females aged 90 years and over had a profound or severe limitation compared with 51.2% of males. At some ages there were higher proportions of males with disability such as for age groups 5 to 14 years (males 12.0% and females 7.0%) and 65 to 69 years (males 39.7% and females 36.0%).

Graph Image for Disability rates, by age and sex, 2015

Footnote(s): (a) Persons with disability

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



There were differences in disability prevalence rates across Australia's states and territories, due in part to the differing age structures. For example, Tasmania and South Australia, which have older populations, recorded the highest disability prevalence rates (25.2% and 22.0%, respectively), for all people living in households.

In comparison, Northern Territory, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, which have younger populations, recorded the lowest disability prevalence rates (11.3%, 14.0% and 15.8%, respectively), for all people living in households.

There have been changes in the proportion of people with disability within particular age groups since 2003. In recent years, there were decreases in disability prevalence for age groups 45 to 54 years (from 18.1% in 2012 to 16.4% in 2015) and 55 to 59 years (from 25.8% in 2012 to 23.4% in 2015).

Graph Image for Disability rates by age - 2003, 2009, 2012, 2015

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



As disability is correlated with age and the results are affected by the age structure of the population, it is useful to examine the results after removing these effects, particularly when comparing rates over time. The age standardised disability rate for all Australians was 17.0%. This compares with 17.4% in 2012 and 17.7% in 2009.

The 2015 SDAC found that the vast majority of Australians with disability were living in households (95.5%) with the other 4.5% living in cared accommodation such as hospitals, nursing homes and aged care hostels. For those with profound limitation, almost one in four (23.5%) lived in cared accommodation.


Employment

Participating in the workforce is important for social inclusion and economic independence. Having disability can impact on a person’s ability and opportunities to participate in paid work. The following 2015 SDAC results are for the working age population (those aged 15 to 64 years), living in households.

In 2015, there were 2.1 million Australians of working age with disability. Of these, 1.0 million were employed and another 114,900 were looking for work. This means that 53.4% of working age people with disability were in the labour force which compares to 83.2% of people with no disability.

The proportion of people with disability who are in the labour force is associated with the severity of their limitation. In 2015, 25.0% of people with a profound or severe limitation were in the labour force, compared with 58.9% of those with a mild limitation. In 2012, the labour force participation rate was higher for people with profound or severe limitations at 29.7%.

Other key figures for Australians of working age include:
  • In 2015, the unemployment rate for people with disability was 10.0%; higher than that for people without disability at 5.3%. This difference was consistent with 2012.
  • Just over one-quarter (27.0%) of people with disability were working full-time, compared with over half (53.8%) of those without disability.
  • Almost half of people with disability were not in the labour force (46.6%), compared with 16.8% of those without disability.
  • There has been an increase in the proportion of people with disability working part-time, from 19.0% in 2012 to 21.1% in 2015.

Graph Image for Persons aged 15 to 64 years(a) - Labour force status, by disability status, 2015

Footnote(s): (a) Living in households

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015




Employment restrictions

Of the one million Australians aged 15 to 64 years with disability (living in households) who were employed just over half (52.6%, or 543,800) reported employment restrictions such as needing time off work (142,900) or special equipment (42,300) because of their disability.

In 2015, 762,600 people aged 15 to 64 years with disability who were not in the labour force had an employment restriction, of which 74.3% (566,700) were permanently unable to work.


Income

Disability can affect a person’s capacity to participate in the labour force and their ability to earn income. The following 2015 SDAC results relate to people of working age (15 to 64 years) who were living in households.

In 2015, around two in five (41.9%) people of working age with disability reported that their main source of cash income was a government pension or allowance, followed by wages or salary (36.5%). Those with a profound limitation were more than twice as likely to report a government pension or allowance as their main source of income (82.8%) than those with a mild limitation (37.2%).

People with disability were more likely to have lower levels of income than those without disability. In 2015, approximately half (49.4%) of people with disability lived in households in the lowest two quintiles for equivalised gross household income, compared with 24.3% of those without disability (excluding those for whom their income was not known). People with disability were also less likely to live in households with incomes in the highest quintile (13.4%) compared to those without disability (26.5%).

Given the smaller proportion of people earning a wage or salary and their greater reliance on government pensions and allowances, it follows that income levels for those with disability would be lower than those without disability. In 2015, the median gross income for a person with disability aged 15 to 64 years was $465 per week, less than half the $950 per week income of a person without disability.

Graph Image for Persons aged 15 to 64 years(a) - Equivalised gross household income quintiles(b), by disability status, 2015

Footnote(s): (a) Living in households (b) Excludes people whose household income was not known

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015




Education

The completion of schooling and higher levels of education are important for providing opportunities to people with disability to meaningfully participate in society and the workforce, as well as achieving financial independence. Participation in education can be affected by the support, assistance and equipment available for people with disability.

The proportion of Australians aged 15 to 64 years with disability (living in households) who had Year 12 or equivalent as their highest year of school completed increased from 35.6% in 2012 to 41.0% in 2015. Over the same time period there was a smaller increase for people without disability (59.8% in 2012 to 62.8% in 2015).

A smaller proportion of people with disability aged 15 to 64 years reported having completed a Bachelor Degree or above compared with those without disability (17.0% and 30.1%, respectively). People with disability were more likely to have attained a Certificate level qualification (28.4%) than those without disability (22.5%).

Of older Australians (aged 65 years and over) with disability, 27.2% reported Year 8 or lower as their highest year of school completed, compared with 17.8% of those without disability. A smaller proportion of older Australians with disability (18.6%) reported Year 12 or equivalent as their highest year of school completed compared with those without disability (28.7%).


Long-term health conditions

In the SDAC, a long- term health condition is a disease or disorder that has lasted, or is likely to last, for six months or more. The SDAC collects information about long-term health conditions and, through a series of screening questions, determines whether they restrict a person’s ability to do activities. People whose long-term health conditions limit their activities are identified as having disability.

For those respondents with more than one long-term health condition, their main condition is the one causing them the most problems.

In 2015, over three-quarters (78.5%) of people with disability reported that a physical condition was their main long-term health condition, with the remainder reporting mental and behavioural disorders (21.5%). Consistent with the findings in 2012, the most commonly reported physical conditions were back problems (13.8%) and arthritis (12.7%). For mental and behavioural disorders, it was intellectual and developmental disorders (6.3%) and depression and mood affective disorders (4.2%) that were the most commonly reported conditions.

Of all people with profound limitation, around two-thirds (64.7%) reported physical conditions as their main long-term health condition while the other one-third reported mental and behavioural disorders (35.3%). Amongst people with moderate and mild limitation, the difference between those who reported physical conditions (88.7% and 85.3%, respectively) as their main long-term health condition and those with mental and behavioural disorders (11.1% and 14.8%, respectively) was much larger.

Graph Image for Persons with profound limitation, by selected main long-term health condition, 2015

Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings—2015



Of those with profound limitation, more people reported diseases of the musculo-skeletal system and connective tissue (20.3%) (such as arthritis and back problems), as their main long-term health condition. The next most commonly reported conditions were mental and behavioural disorders; namely psychoses and mood affective disorders (16.6%) (such as depression) and intellectual and developmental disorders (13.6%) (such as autism).


Need for assistance

People with disability often need assistance and support to be independent and participate in social and economic life. Understanding their need for assistance is important for the effective provision of services. The SDAC collects valuable information about the type and amount of assistance people with disability need, as well as whether they have needs that are unmet.

In 2015, 2.4 million Australians with disability (living in households) needed assistance with at least one activity of daily life. Assistance was most commonly needed with health care (29.3%), property maintenance (26.9%) and household chores (23.5%). The proportion of people needing property maintenance assistance had decreased from 29.1% in 2012.

Those with a profound limitation, that is, the most severe level of disability, reported the greatest need for assistance with mobility (88.3%) and health care (77.3%), such as taking medication or administering injections.

Unmet need for assistance

A person who needs assistance with an activity may or may not receive the help they require. Most people needing assistance because of disability received some help (97.4%). Of all Australians with disability (living in households) who needed assistance, 62.1% reported their needs were fully met. A further 35.3% reported their needs were partly met and 2.7% reported their needs were not met at all.

People with profound or severe limitation were more likely to have their need for assistance only partly met or not met at all (43.8%) than those with moderate or mild levels of limitation (33.1%). A higher proportion of those with profound or severe disability aged under 65 years had their need for assistance only partly met or not met at all (48.2%), compared with those aged 65 years and over (37.4%).

In the 2015 SDAC, people with disability were asked to report on the activities for which their needs for assistance were not fully met. The most commonly reported activities were property maintenance (315,800 or 7.7% of all people with disability), cognitive or emotional tasks such as making friends and coping with feelings (305,700 or 7.5% of all people with disability) and household chores (228,700 or 5.6% of all people with disability).


Service use

People with disability may be supported by formal and/or informal providers of assistance. They also may seek assistance from different providers for their various care needs.

In 2015, 80.2% of people with disability who needed help received assistance from informal providers. These included the person’s partner (44.2% of those receiving informal assistance), child (29.3% of those receiving informal assistance) and parent (24.4% of those receiving informal assistance). Over half (52.0%) of those receiving assistance from informal providers received care on a daily basis, with 27.3% receiving assistance on a weekly basis.

Of people with disability who needed assistance, the activities for which informal support was needed and received included communication (89.9%), mobility (88.7%) and reading or writing tasks (87.6%).

Of people with disability who needed assistance, 57.6% received assistance from formal providers. These formal providers were most likely to be private commercial organisations (63.6% of those receiving formal assistance) and government providers (46.0% of those receiving formal assistance). Almost 40% of people with disability receiving assistance from formal providers did so on a monthly basis, with 27.0% receiving assistance on a weekly basis and 19.8% on a yearly basis.

The activities for which people with disability needed and received assistance from formal providers included health care (55.0%), cognitive and emotional tasks (52.8%) and communication (43.5%).


Aids and equipment

Aids and equipment can assist people with disability by improving their functioning, promoting their independence and increasing their participation in social and economic life. There are a number of personal and environmental factors that impact the use of aids and equipment including level of impairment or activity limitation, accessibility, reliability/performance and affordability. The availability of assistance from personal carers also plays a role for some people with disability.

Consistent with the 2012 SDAC findings, 2.2 million Australians with disability (living in households or cared accommodation) used aids or equipment in 2015 because of their condition, which is just over half (50.2%) of those with disability. People living alone in a household were more likely to use aids or equipment compared with those living with others in a household (55.7% compared with 46.1%). The majority of those living in cared accommodation used aids or equipment (93.6%).

Communication aids were used by 1.1 million Australians with disability (25.9% of those with disability); with just over 700,000 people reporting that they used a hearing aid (16.4% of those with disability).

Some 639,300 people with disability used mobility aids (14.9% of those with disability); with around 190,000 people reporting that they used either a manual or electric wheelchair (3.8% and 0.6% respectively, of those with disability). Almost 500,000 people had made home modifications such as grab rails (337,800 or 8.2% of those with disability), modifying their bathroom, toilet or laundry (222,600 or 5.4% of those with disability) or installing ramps (100,200 or 2.4% of those with disability).


Social and community participation

Participating in community activities and interacting with other people contribute to a person’s sense of wellbeing. They are particularly important for people with disability, especially those who are not employed, as they help build social support networks.

In 2015, most people (77.4%) with disability (living in households) participated in physical activities, visited public places and engaged with friends and family. Rates of social participation for people with disability declined with age, with the vast majority (93.7%) of younger Australians (aged 5 to 14 years) participating in one or more activities in the 12 months prior to the 2015 survey, compared with those aged 15 to 64 years (81.1%) and those aged 65 years and over (69.7%).

Similar to 2012, the rates of social participation for people with profound or severe limitation were lower than for those with moderate or mild limitation in 2015. For those aged 15 to 64 years, fewer people with a profound or severe limitation attended a movie or performing arts event (42.1% for profound or severe compared with 53.6% for moderate or mild), went out with relatives or friends (58.1% for profound or severe compared with 68.5% for moderate or mild) and went on holidays or camping with others (18.0% for profound or severe compared with 26.1% for moderate or mild).


Accessibility

Access to transport networks is a critical element of participation in society and can be particularly difficult where disability is present. Of people aged 5 years and over with disability (living in households) 40.2% used public transport (1.6 million people). The majority of people with disability could use all forms of public transport (78.5%), most with no difficulty (65.9%). A further 6.1% could use some but not all forms of public transport and 14.7% could not use any.

Of those people with disability reporting difficulty with public transport, the main types of difficulty experienced were access issues due to steps (39.9%), difficulty getting to the stops or stations (25.0%), fear and anxiety (23.3%) and lack of seating or difficulty standing (20.7%).

Access to goods, services and opportunities for social interaction is an important aspect for anyone’s health and wellbeing. The SDAC contains a measure of geographical remoteness, which gives an indication of accessibility by measuring the road distance to service towns of different sizes. The measure provides information about remote areas where there are often challenges for people with disabilities and their families such as lack of services, barriers to accessing distant services and isolation; these challenges may not be shared by people living in major cities. In 2015, 535,600 people with disability lived in outer regional and remote areas of Australia (22.3% of people with disability).


Experience of discrimination

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 provides protection for Australians against discrimination based on disability. The Act promotes equal rights, opportunities and access for people with disability, as well as making disability discrimination unlawful. Disability discrimination occurs when people with disability are treated less fairly than people without disability.

Almost one in 12 Australians with disability aged 15 years and over and living in households (281,100 people or 8.6%) reported they had experienced discrimination or unfair treatment because of their disability in the last 12 months. The rates of reported discrimination were similar for men (8.3%) and women (8.9%).

Higher proportions of young people with disability (aged 15 to 24 years) reported the experience of discrimination (20.5%) compared to those aged 65 years and over (2.1%).

An employer was the source of discrimination for almost half of those aged 15 to 64 years with disability who were unemployed (46.9%) or employed full-time (46.2%) and just over one-third (34.6%) of those employed part-time, at the time of the survey.

Over one-third (35.1%) of women and over one-quarter (28.1%) of men aged 15 years and over had avoided situations because of their disability. Older people (aged 65 years and over) were less likely to avoid situations because of their disability (20.1%) than younger people (46.5%).