Literally tens of thousands of people with disability (and families) are thinking about how the NDIS will enable a move out of the family home and into a house of their own.
As the NDIS rolls out across Australia participants and their families will be coming to organisations asking what they should be doing to get ‘housing ready’ for the NDIS.
What do you say to people with disability and their families about how the NDIS can help overcome the housing problem? This question is perplexing many organisations given that the NDIS and housing is a complicated beast.
Ultimately, participants and their families will need to decide for themselves where they live, who they live with and how they are supported.
The NDIS is not going to be deciding this for people. There is no waiting list management by the NDIA and planners aren’t going to be creative geniuses helping people to think about new models of support. All this is going to sit with participants, families and their supporters.
We have put together four key questions you can ask people with disability and families to think about their first NDIS plan. This can be useful for Support Coordinators, service providers or advocates and families.
Question 1) What support do I need to decide where/with who I will live with?
The first question any participant and family should begin with is whether they already know where and with who they want to live.
The NDIS gives participants huge freedom to choose where they live. Participants will want to think about how their new home is located to family and friends, as well as close to the places they frequently go – work, training, education, arts and cultural venues and public services such as health services.
Participants will also need to think about who they want to live with. There are no restrictions in the NDIS about who a person could live with – whether it is family members, friends or stranger with disability or friends.
The NDIS will require participants to think about how frequently they require funded support and whether their NDIS-funded support will be sufficient to support these living options. For example, living far from public transport will increase the cost in transportation to the NDIS.
Potential methods of assistance:
NDIS Plan: The participant’s first NDIS plan should include a specific funding item for a “Housing Options Package”. This will fund support for a person to assist the participant work through these questions around where they want to live and who they want to live with.
Informal support from family and friends and peers to talk about the participant’s housing goals and ideas that other people have on how these could be achieved.
Question 2) How likely is it that I will get a ‘Specialist Disability Accommodation’ payment from the NDIS?
Knowing whether or not the NDIA is likely to contribute to the cost of housing ‘bricks and mortar’ is one the biggest questions to understand when planning for housing in the NDIS.
Finding affordable housing is a big issue for many Australians. People with disability can have a double challenge of finding housing that is both affordable and meets any disability-related needs they have.
The NDIS is only going to solve the housing problem for a small fraction of NDIS participants – 6% in fact. 94% of NDIS participants will not get any form of ‘bricks and mortar’ assistance from the NDIA.
The assistance the NDIS provides for the 6% is called ‘Specialist Disability Accommodation’ (SDA). It provides a yearly subsidy for the participant which depends on the house type and level of accessibility.
A rough guide for providing advice to participants on whether they will get an SDA payment:
If a participant needs a lot of support (more than 6 times per day/$140k per year): The participant is likely to get the SDA payment and then the NDIA would pay the house owner to make it affordable the participant. SDA payments in the plan will subsidise the cost of an accessible house – the participant will only pay 25% of the DSP for housing. Participants without SDA payments can access home modifications, assistive technology and aids and equipment that can make housing accessible for them.
If a participants need less support (less than 6 times per day/$140k per year): The participant is unlikely to get an SDA payment and will need to find another option to access affordable housing. Before the first plan the participant should think how the participant and others could pool part of your income/DSP to pay for the rent on their own home
If the NDIA finds that the participant does not meet the requirements for SDA, there are a range of other supports that can help them with housing. Home modifications to another house to make it accessible is a big help. The other key support is Support Coordination and Specialist Tenancy Support which can both assist a participant to think through other housing options and to find and maintain their tenancy in a private rental or community housing dwelling in the community.
Potential methods of assistance:
If a participant needs a lot of support (more than 6 times per day/$140k per year): SDA payments in the plan will subsidise the cost of an accessible house – the participant will only pay 25% of the DSP for housing. Participants without SDA payments can access home modifications, assistive technology and aids and equipment that can make housing accessible for them.
If the participant needs less support (less than 6 times per day/$140k per year): Before the first plan the participant should think how the participant and others could pool part of your income/DSP to pay for the rent on their own home
Question 3) What support I need to find and keep a place to live?
Participants will be at different stages in their level of independence to find and maintain their housing.
The NDIS is moving away from one provider delivering every part of a person’s living – the NDIS aims to separate providing the house from providing the support in a person’s house. This means the participant will need to be able to find a housing provider and pay their rent, as well as pay their utility bills and manage day-to-day maintenance.
The NDIS can help fund the support participants needs to do all these things. Participants will need to show how their disability means they need support with these independent living activities.
Potential methods of assistance:
NDIS Plan: The first plan could include ‘tenancy assistance’ to talk to landlords about renting a property; paying bills; and interacting with neighbours. Or ‘independent living skills’ to learn how to budget and manage money; and develop social and communication skills.
Informal supports from family and friends can help the participant to think through what tasks they will need to do in their home.
Question 4) How do I want my day-to-day support to be linked to my home?
Participants can mix and match their house and their support. The house and the support do not have to be provided by the same organisation and, in fact, the NDIS is aiming to separate the house and the support.
By separating the bricks and mortar from the provider, participants have a huge range of options for how they can be supported in their home.
The range of ways that participants can get the support they need in their home is one of the biggest changes from the NDIS. The move away from housing support mostly being group homes is an exciting development for participants and families wanting more control over their living arrangements.
Providers can assist participants by finding out how participants want to be supported and then design new models of support to best assist participants.
Participants should think about how much choice and control they want over the people supporting them in their home. The kinds of areas that participants might want to think about choice and control include:
Whether the participant is supported by just one provider that meets all their needs, or whether they have multiple providers that meet different needs.
How much choice the participant has over which staff work in their home.
What options the participant has to identify the times of the day that they get support.
What process is in place for the participant to change their support provider if they are not satisfied with their support provider.
Potential methods of assistance:
NDIS Plan: The participant’s plan can include the direct funding for day-to-day assistance – either through individual hours of assistance or the ‘shared living’ rate. Participants can also get ‘support coordination’ funded in their plan. These support coordinators can help the participant to find and negotiate with the right provider to deliver their day-to-day support.
Informal supports from family and friends will be an important source of assistance for many participants to live independently. Parents and siblings might play a role in assisting the participant in the transition to independent living.
Providers can use these four questions to structure their conversation with people with disability and their families about getting ‘housing ready’ for the NDIS.
This will help the participant to develop a high quality first plan and talk about how the provider can best meet the participant and family’s needs.
Links to other useful resources
Context setting for planning with people/assisting people:
Working through a planning processes
Summer Foundation - Housing Toolkit
Pave the Way
Shared Living beyond group homes
Luke has been a key player in the development of the NDIS, working extensively on scheme’s design in his roles as a Director at the National Disability Insurance Agency and advisor at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. In his time at the NDIA Luke’s work focused on engagement with the sector to increase housing options for NDIS participants and the delineation between the NDIS and other mainstream systems such as health and education.
In the non-government sector Luke led the establishment of the Australia’s peak body for young people, worked as a Community Projects Manager at Mission Australia and has served on the Board of community sector peak bodies and home and community care providers. Luke’s disability sector experiences includes three years working in residential disability services, including government and non-government run group homes. Luke has recently completed a Fulbright Scholarship at New York University’s Center for Urban Policy.
Libby Ellis is the Director of InCharge. She focuses on what it takes for people with disability to take front and centre stage of their own lives. Through this experience she noticed there was a gap between people’s desires for better and knowing how to get it. So InCharge acts like a social broker – connecting NDIS participants with other people, networks, opportunities, roles in their community, information and most importantly, their own capacity - in order to become genuine contributing citizens. This is the great opportunity for people with the NDIS.
Prior to this Libby worked for services to create genuine opportunities for personalised support, and for advocacy organisations. She brings 20 years experience supporting her brother with significant intellectual disability and autism to share his home with people without disability, define his own needs and direct his support to meet these needs. Her family’s partnership with a national service provider was the catalyst to the development of their self-managed services.