The Methodology subgroup first met in April 2012. To complete its work it met on six occasions including one two day face-to-face meeting and five teleconferences between April 2012 and July 2012.
The subgroup developed its thinking about the methodology by reviewing and analysing each of the individual homeless operational groups, including consideration of:
- the wording and intent of the Census questions;
- the field procedures of the Census;
- the limitations of the Census for enumerating some population groups; and
- the limitations of the Census for estimating some population groups.
At key points in this process subgroup members were invited to seek broader stakeholder feedback about the living conditions and their implications for key aspects of the methodology.
The ABS considered the input it received in members in refining the methodology for official estimates of homelessness from the Census. It undertook additional analysis to further consider the recommendations made by members. Balanced with these suggestions were how the methodology aligned with the new ABS definition of homelessness; reflected the wording and intent of the Census questions and field procedures; and to ensure that the methodology was consistent and repeatable across Censuses.
Where did the views of Definition subgroup members merge and where did they diverge?
The subgroup was in agreement in a number of areas, had divergent views in some other areas and highlighted areas for the ABS to consider to improve future Censuses.
Areas of agreement
There was large agreement within the subgroup on relevant issues, including:
Areas of disagreement
- importance of having a consistent methodology across Censuses to ensure changes over time can be monitored;
- the underestimation of some key homeless groups in the Census: homeless youth, homeless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people fleeing domestic and/or family violence;
- the importance of using multiple sources of information to obtain a more complete picture of homelessness - Census is not the only source of data;
- to use the 2006 Census estimates of supported accommodation for the homeless rather than administrative data. Administrative data doesn't allow the data to be analysed according to the demographic variables collected in the Census or to be analysed in conjunction with the other homeless operational groups;
- moving people who were homeless and in non-private dwellings out of the boarding house category and moving them into their own category - 'Persons in temporary lodging;
- presenting other forms of marginal housing alongside homelessness estimates to present a picture of the potential at risk homeless population; and
- looking forward to the 2016 Census in order to improve the way information is collected from homeless people to improve the Census as an important data source on homelessness.
The main areas in which the group had differing views were:
Areas highlighted to the ABS to consider in improving homeless estimation in future Censuses
- how to best operationalise accommodation alternatives for each of the homeless operational groups using the Census dataset;
- whether all people in improvised dwellings should be considered to be homeless;
- where the line should be drawn in operationalising severe crowding; and
- whether sufficient effort had been made to address known underestimation in particular areas (eg. youth homelessness), notwithstanding limitations in the range of information collected in the Census for this purpose and a lack of robust alternative measures.
There were a number of areas that members highlighted for the ABS to consider for improving the collection of homeless people in future Censuses in order to improve the estimation of homelessness, including:
- obtaining lists of legal and illegal boarding houses to improve the coding of the boarding house category;
- expanding procedures for identifying supported accommodation for the homeless to allow the collection of those on 'voucher' or 'brokerage;'
- to work further with HSRG to identify ways to improve both the enumeration and estimation of homeless youth, homeless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people fleeing domestic and/or family violence; and
- supportive of the ABS seeking funding to run a separate homeless youth school survey (if the quality study proves successful) to allow estimation of youth homelessness.