SDA and SIL: Becoming Strange Bedfellows

It seems unbelievable that the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) and Supported Independent Living (SIL) programs are becoming so poorly aligned; when it is obvious that the success of each is dependent on the other. Yet, the emerging design for SIL appears not to account for many of the key characteristics of SDA.

Unbelievable but true, and sad. It seems the commitment to better planning in the NDIA has not yet reached the ears of the people designing NDIS housing. As the first housing developments hit the ground, we are finding that SDA and SIL are not adequately aligned, causing further impediments to the already struggling SDA market. We are very concerned that SDA without a comparable SIL service will fail in its intended purpose of enabling a person to lead a supported, yet independent life.

To illustrate the point, let’s first look at the SDA price guide. In all categories, there are a number of 1 and 2 bedroom SDA configurations available for registration. These include apartments, townhouses and houses. This fits very well with the foundation NDIS principle of choice and control. A person can choose to live in their preferred style of home. Obviously, this is subject to the largely un-written SDA assessment criteria to ensure that the preferred style of home is considered reasonable and necessary. (If a person has the wish to exercise their choice and control to live is a particular style of home, it is hard to understand how this could be anything other than reasonable and necessary; but that is a tangent to be explored another time).

Now, let's look at the NDIS produced 'SIL quoting' resources. One of the first steps in preparing a SIL quote is to assess the level of care the people in the home require to support their daily lives. The very first level is known as 'Standard' and it has a ratio of 1 staff member to 4 people. The next is 'High Intensity' with a ratio of 1 staff member to 2 people. It is not until the last and highest support category that a person receives 1-on-1 support.

The SIL quoting process, therefore, assumes some level of congregated living to align with most of the support ratios. However, the SDA guidelines do not state that there is a minimum density requirement. In some cases, drop-in supports can be used. Yet it is unclear what would happen in situations where a person wants to live on their own, in a setting with only 1 SDA dwelling, where they do not require 24/7 one-on-one supports but need more than a few periods of drop in support each day. 

There are numerous other permutations where the approach to SIL may not align with an individuals choice, especially in settings with only a few participants with varying levels of support requirements. These situations underline the importance of considering how SIL services will be delivered within SDA at the very early planning stages to ensure that a suitable SIL / drop in support service can be constructed to ensure the SDA is serviceable.

There is also evidence of an approach to assessing SIL quoting where the level of care a person has now is the basis for future SIL funding. This is seemingly completely independent of consideration of the attributes of their home and also at odds with the fundamental capacity-building principles of the NDIS.

The NDIS is an opportunity to cast aside what happened in the past and create a brand new world for all those people with disabilities. It is not about trying to squeeze existing practices and approaches into a new model.

As we eagerly await the release of the NDIS’s update on the SDA market (now pushed back to the end of April) we are hopeful that this disconnect between SDA and SIL is high on the list of priorities to be addressed.