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Concerns Raised Over NDIS Barriers for Homeless People With Disability


7 August 2018 at 8:24 am
Maggie Coggan
There are calls for greater National Disability Insurance Scheme accessibility for disadvantaged groups, with an expert warning it is “nearly impossible” for homeless people with disability to get help from the system.  


Maggie Coggan | 7 August 2018 at 8:24 am


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Concerns Raised Over NDIS Barriers for Homeless People With Disability
7 August 2018 at 8:24 am

There are calls for greater National Disability Insurance Scheme accessibility for disadvantaged groups, with an expert warning it is “nearly impossible” for homeless people with disability to get help from the system.  

Kate Paterson, an homelessness and disability expert at the Council to Homeless Persons (CHP), spoke to Pro Bono News before her appearance at an NDIS-focused session at the National Homelessness Conference 2018.

Paterson said there were barriers for homeless people with disability because the NDIS relied on people reaching out for help.

“For people who are homeless, and for those that in particular have a psychosocial disability, they can’t even get to the point of asking,” she said.

In a CHP report written by Paterson, concerns were raised over the lack of “discourse” about the “interaction of the NDIS with people who are homeless”, something which she said she would like to see an improvement on.

“If you do a google search on the NDIS website, you will barely find the word homelessness in the information provided… they aren’t identified as a special needs group or a group of people with complex needs,” Paterson said.

Paterson was joined at the conference by other experts in the sector, including Dr Clare Townsend, manager of Synapse, who spoke about the issues of access to the NDIS for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are homeless.

Townsend told Pro Bono News she believed there were a different set of issues when considering homeless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability, as there was a need to “recognise their cultural experience”.

“We need to look at what disability means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, what it means that their first language isn’t English, the involvement of family structures as opposed to individual control,” Townsend said.

She said factors such as “intergenerational trauma” also played a part in a lack of engagement in the system.  

“They’ve experienced generations of stigma and discrimination from services, and to get into the NDIS you’re expected to initiate a relationship with a scheme which you don’t understand,” she said.

Paterson said she wanted better “awareness and acknowledgement” to come out of the conference, as it was an issue that was often overlooked.  

“I see that the NDIS is a phenomenal change to the service system… but unfortunately the people on the margins are always going to be the last ones to be brought into the system.”


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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6 comments

  • Avatar Peter says:

    Important to raise issues of disconnect between the agency and persons with disabilities in greater need. For the NDIA, the next 18 months will be a period of heightening community engagement as they try to capture the largest groups of people who are eligible under the funding scheme. That is, internal staff will be stretched to the max during this 18 month period and therefore mistakes will become more prevalent as they try to cope with a massive influx of people. As we raise more issues of “discontent” hopefully the conversation will move to a more solution-based dialogue rather than another lengthening list of complaint. The easiest position is to tell people what is wrong, the better position is to add to the solution – a real and well-thought solution. Well done for raising this important story.

    • Avatar Bob Simpson says:

      Peter, if NDIS is a top-down, problem-driven government model, will it ever be truly effective in increasing the well-being and human flourishing of people in Cities and Shires across Australia? How does strengths-based Community building, from the ground-up in Shires and Cities, embed itself in the NDIS rationale? If this is not a feature, my opinion is that we will waste enormous amounts of money on administration and profit-oriented education and training solutions with mythical evidence-base. If you’re close to NDIS, I’d be interested in your further thoughts. Bob Simpson

  • Avatar Denise Redmond says:

    NDIS Home Modification inclusions in plans for people with physical disabilities rely on people owning their own home ( and therefore able to allow modifications to assist access) OR rely on their Landlords allowing for removable modifications. How does this “enable” people with physical disabilities to live independently?
    NDIS policy is to keep people in their own homes for as long as possible- the question of where home is and whether it exists has not been addressed.
    No home, no address ….you have not jumped onto the bottom rung of NDIS!

  • Avatar Greg Franklin says:

    People have been raising this issue since before rollout. Trouble is, no one listens to people who are not a “Somebody”. This applies to so many issues currently being reported. I know I sent many to Pro Bono, and others, but nil response. So I gave up. Please help the homeless affected, but there are other issues just as serious that still have not been picked up, because the people you use for information are not aware of them yet. Really big one with kids not getting into NDIS, and now without support for them or their family, specific cohorts in particular.

  • Avatar Polyanna says:

    They access the scheme quite fine, thanks. Homelessness services and the hospital assist with NDIS access requests. Plenty of individuals with psychosocial disability (who are usually the ones that are homeless) have come onto the scheme.

  • Avatar Jade says:

    This article was written two years ago – my son and I have been homeless for four.

    We are on public housing lists, have applied to rentals and over stayed our welcome at friends places.

    There is no housing and no one seems to care.

    My sons plan has now rolled over for three years unused. We move 2-4 times a year, never long enough to set up stable supports.

    My mental health and my sons well-being have disintegrated.

    We are not alone. There are many women and children living in vehicles, caravans, sheds. They are not seen and not counted as statistics because they are not on the streets – but they have no home, no stability and no hope.

    I have tried advocacy services but they can’t help with housing.

    The only time my sons plan was accessed was by a Support Coordinator who drained the funds without me knowing and left us without supports.

    There is a housing crisis – women and children need housing. People on NDIS plans need housing to get supports.

    I have asked people in the system why there isn’t housing for people with psycho-social disabilities? There is only housing for people with physical disabilities.

    The government is giving $70 million a year to developers to build physical disability housing – but nothing for those who have unseen needs. Needs that make it difficult to live near others, needs that cause social issues or social isolation.

    The cost to support mental health in the coming generation of forgotten homeless children will be far greater than any investment into providing somewhere for them to call home.

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