Fears NDIA Will Force People into Shared Accommodation Settings
Monday, 14th May 2018 at 3:48 pm
Disability groups have expressed concerns that the National Disability Insurance Agency will force most people seeking Specialist Disability Accommodation into a group home situation, regardless of personal preference.
The NDIA recently released a Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Provider and Investor Brief, outlining the agency’s latest policy position for disability housing.
The brief indicated that only a “very small number…of a very small percentage” of NDIS participants would be funded to live alone in SDA.
“It is important for providers to note that an SDA budget to support a single resident dwelling is only likely to be provided to a very small number of SDA eligible participants (a small percentage of NDIS participants overall), even when the dwelling is in a configuration that makes shared supports possible,” the brief said.
This has led a coalition of organisations – including the Summer Foundation, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) and People with Disability Australia (PWDA) – to sign a joint statement on Monday calling for “immediate reassurance and certainty” on how the SDA market is expected to grow and operate.
The NDIA’s policy position says SDA funding is here to stay, but providers and investors are anxious about what type of housing will be funded. New homes for PWD are now in jeopardyhttps://t.co/VX90fxTHAs pic.twitter.com/8EzUJnsx90
— Summer Foundation (@SummerFoundtn) May 13, 2018
“People with disabilities and developers of innovative housing for people with disabilities are pleased the NDIA has reiterated the government’s commitment to SDA in its SDA Provider and Investor Brief,” the statement said.
“However, the NDIA’s SDA Brief expresses a vision for SDA housing with a clear bias toward shared models of housing for people with disability, presumably to reduce support costs.
“The SDA Brief suggests the NDIA will, in most cases, require people with disability to live in group-home style accommodation settings, even if it is not their preference.”
The disability groups said that forcing participants into shared accommodation arrangements was “out of step” with the preferences of people with disability, as well as Australia’s broader human rights obligations, the NDIS Act, and advice from the NDIA’s own Independent Advisory Council.
“It is also a significant risk to the safety of people with disabilities as evidenced by inquiries into abuse and neglect, which have shown that people living in group homes are at high risk of violence and abuse,” the statement said.
Ross Joyce, the CEO of AFDO, told Pro Bono News that the NDIA’s brief plainly indicated a preference toward shared accommodation for people with disabilities.
He added that it was “20 years out of date” to push people with disability into a group home situation, rather than offering the option of independent living.
“Clearly in the way it’s been written, it’s suggesting in most cases that people will have to live in a group-style home accommodation even if they don’t want to do that and that’s not their preference,” Joyce said.
“And from our point of view, the inference in that seems to be about cost savings which is in one way fair enough, but it’s not delivering on what the NDIS is supposed to be doing and that’s providing greater choice and control for people with disability.
“So that’s our area of concern. And in looking at that and the SDA model, it’s old school to be looking at group home scenarios as the first port of call for anyone. That’s something we don’t support.”
The statement said investors and providers had been working with SDA funding policy since 2016, looking to pioneer new ways for people with complex support needs to live in their own home, while also sharing supports with others if they chose to.
“SDA providers and investors have, to date, committed tens of millions to the development of new accessible housing,” the statement said.
“Significant increased investment is poised to enter the market in coming months to create hundreds of new high-quality, modern homes that can provide ordinary lives for people with disability.”
But the disability groups warned that the SDA brief had now “created immediate uncertainty”.
“Providers are pausing projects and reconsidering future investment in the market,” the statement said.
“The brief has changed the goalposts for providers and investors. Millions of dollars in investment in SDA is directly and immediately affected.”
#Disability groups are concerned about the NDIA's policy position on SDA for providers and investors. The #NDIS must give people with disability choice and control over where they live and who they live with. https://t.co/J5BeOgFbhh @NDIS
— Ross Joyce (@AFDO_CEO) May 14, 2018
Joyce said this model predominantly forcing people into group home environments was to blame for the uncertainty.
“This is not what the market has been looking at,” he said.
“So I think that’s created a bit of a ‘hang on what’s going on’ moment for those providers and certainly for quite a range of projects that are really on the boil.
“What we’d like to see the NDIA embrace further, is really looking at a modern approach to how people with disabilities should have the choice and control to live in the way that they wish.”
The statement has called for immediate reassurance and certainty on the growth and operation of the SDA market, noting that the NDIA brief did not provide this.
Joyce said the first priority of the NDIA and government was to confirm that participants wishing to live alone would not be forced into a shared living arrangement.
“If their choice is that then there should be supports and mechanisms put into place to assist them to achieve that goal,” he said.
He also called for the establishment of an SDA working group made up of participants, providers and other NDIS stakeholders.
The goal of this group would be to develop a shared vision for housing in the NDIS and consider what factors should contribute to “reasonable and necessary” considerations regarding SDA.
“We welcome working together with the NDIA to make sure we can sort out these sorts of issues as they come along,” Joyce said.
“But what we don’t want to see is that people with disability aren’t delivered on promises of what the NDIS is meant to do, and that’s to provide them with choice and control over their own lives.”
But the NDIA have denied they will push NDIS participants into group-style home accommodation against their wishes.
An NDIA spokesperson told Pro Bono News the NDIS Act and the SDA Rules had not changed and that the brief did not represent a change in policy.
“Each SDA plan decision will continue to be made on an individual basis according to the SDA Rules and NDIS Act,” the spokesperson said.
“Where a participant is eligible for SDA, the NDIA will give consideration to their preferences, including any preference to live alone.”