SDA: What’s in the Numbers?

Just a week since the release of the Specialist Disability Accommodation Provider and Investor Brief, some long awaited numbers about SDA have been released – well sort of released – via a written response to question SQ18-000025 from a recent Senate Estimates Hearing. Unless you spend your spare time trawling through the Senate Estimates Hansards you might have missed them - so here they are (current as at 31 December 2017):

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Before we pull out the calculator to perform some maths there are three initial observations that deserve comment:

  1. Why weren’t these numbers included in the Provider and Investor Brief? Perhaps because they may not encourage investment?
  2. I have again re-read the SDA Rule, Price Guide and various other relevant documents and cannot seem to locate the SDA category of Young People in Residential Aged Care (YPIRAC). I thought getting people out of residential aged care (RAC) was a key focus for SDA?
  3. The response states: “A breakdown of the level or type of SDA approved in plans and the number of people with SDA in their plans who did not previously live in SDA is not available”. All I can say is: REALLY? You have apparently committed a total of $63M of taxpayers money and you don’t have any information about how this has been allocated?

So, let’s do some maths.

There is a total of 4,644 active plans with SDA with a corresponding committed spend of $45,115,330. This equates to an average of $9,715 per participant. The smallest SDA Price (for New SDA Improved Liveability, 5 person group home) is $12,997. We can only assume (as they don’t have any information on this remember) very very few have any form of new SDA funding. Looking at the existing SDA price guide and having previously seen a few legacy price lists, it also seems safe to assume that the vast majority of SDA funding committed to date is for legacy or basic existing stock. In other words the funding is going to people to stay wherever it was they were living before the NDIS.

Just as concerning is that out of the $45M committed, as of 31 December only $1.5M had actually been paid by the agency. This just doesn’t make sense.

Adopting the same math approach for in-kind (dominant in NSW and VIC) the average SDA funding commitment per person is $7,917. This also equates to existing SDA prices so similar to the non in-kind participants, the obvious assumption is that the funding is for legacy or Basic stock only. Considering it is in-kind, this does make more sense.

So, the good news is we have some numbers at last!! The bad news is the numbers, given the apparent absence of data about who actually has what SDA allocations, appear to suggest the vast majority of participants are being funded to remain in their legacy or basic SDA stock – or – even in RAC settings.

It is baffling that information about the level or type or SDA payments and the number of new SDA participants is not available whilst all sorts of metrics about every other aspect of participants plans are reported each quarter. Hopefully this information can be released soon as it has the potential to start to repair some of the confidence that was lost thanks to the Provider and Investor Brief. Of course it has the potential to do the exact opposite too.