The Australian Community Sector Survey (ACSS) is the only annual national survey collecting data about the non-government, non-profit community services and welfare sector. This sector is a major provider of the community services that most of us rely on at some point in our lives, but which are particularly important to people on low incomes.
The 2012 ACSS was conducted between April and June 2012 and covers the period from 1 July 2010 – 30 June 2011. A total of 665 agencies completed the survey, responding on issues relating to service provision, income and expenditure, and operational, policy, and workforce issues for the community services sector.
For people experiencing poverty and disadvantage in Australia, the availability of secure and affordable housing, and care and treatment for mental illness were reported as the greatest areas of need. The services that were least able to meet demand were housing and homelessness services, followed by legal services.
Organisations were asked to report on areas of unmet need among their clients, beyond those services they delivered themselves. Here, unmet need was highest for housing and homelessness services, followed by mental health services. Unemployment featured strongly among clients with unmet needs. Underfunding and uncertainty about the funding of services stood out strongly as the most significant future pressure on the sector. Ongoing unmet demand by clients followed closely behind.
These concerns indicate clearly the impact of inadequate and inconsistent funding on service effectiveness and sustainability.

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