Updated: Mar 30, 2019
What it means for participants, providers and investors
Earlier this year, two important documents were released on Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA):
If you’re a participant looking into SDA or a potential provider or investor, these documents are important to get your head around so you know what to expect from the model. They cover essential info like who’s eligible, what the terms are, what sort of dwellings are included, and how it’s all meant to work.
Before we get into the specifics on SDA rules and discuss the potential issues, let’s start with the basics.
What is Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA)?
It’s a type of accommodation funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for people with disabilities who need specially designed or adapted homes to help deliver their supports.
SDA is not for all people with a disability or all NDIS participants. According to the NDIS Special Disability Accommodation Rules 2016, it exists to assist with those high support needs or significant functional impairment who need a specialist housing solution.
Eligible participants can have SDA funded as part of their NDIS planning, goals, and supports. If participants include SDA funding in their plan and get approved, they (and their support coordinator) can use the funding to source the most appropriate supports in the marketplace. SDA will work similarly to other types of NDIS services, with a set price guide and approved providers.
What’s SDA supposed to achieve?
The NDIS has a $700 million annual budget for SDA and plans to provide housing for 28,000 Australians who need it (around 6% of NDIS participants). Source: The Conversation.
And this support is much-needed. Right now, thousands of young people with a disability live in nursing homes, which unacceptable.
SDA should make sure the right people have better access to the supports they need and more choices around their independence. And that means younger people who need special accommodation will have more appropriate options than aged care.
But first, it has to get up and running, and things have been rather slow on that front. Even though there’s a lot of funding allocated towards SDA (which should mean more business growth opportunities with disability services), it’s not clear whether many SDA plan approvals are happening yet. And if they are, the current model is making investors reluctant to get on board.
To get a better perspective on what’s really going on here, I chatted with Greg Barry, who has dedicated the last 2 years to working in this space as a consultant. He’s an expert in public housing, adaptable housing, and affordable private market housing for people with disabilities. He’s also the co-carer of his 25 year old daughter, Celine, who is severely disabled.
Greg discussed some changes that might need to happen to make the model work for both participants and providers.
What are some issues with the current model for SDA providers and investors?
It’s pretty clear from talking to Greg that something needs to change in the current SDA model and process. It’s just not happening fast enough (for a number of reasons) and it’s preventing eligible participants from getting the support they’re entitled to.
For a start, the recent SDA Provider and Investor Brief introduced a whole range of issues, new risks, and incomplete information for investors. Potential investors are nervous (and disappearing fast) - with good reason.
During our chat, Greg shared his thoughts on why the current model might scare off potential investors.
“Although the SDA has been clearly confirmed as a long-term Government commitment, some of the messages which came out of the provider brief weren’t clear.”
“The scariest part for investors is confidence and certainty around the administration of the policy.”
What are some challenges for NDIS participants getting SDA approvals?
Of course, it’s not just investors that are having a tough time working with the SDA processes. Participants who include SDA supports in their NDIS plan seem to be having a difficult time with getting them approved.
Greg confirms this, saying, “One of the most challenging aspects of making projects happen is the issue of participants achieving SDA in their plans.”
In Greg’s experience, the best way to improve your chances of getting SDA funding approved is to start with becoming broadly familiar with the eligibility criteria and the SDA rules. He shared a great tip for participants (and their supporters) who feel there’s a reasonable argument for SDA eligibility.
“Seek support coordination hours in their NDIS plan for investigating suitable housing options. That way, they can get help with properly exploring issues around eligibility, appropriate housing, and housing options - and then take the next step towards SDA funding.”
Greg has consulted with community housing organisations, developers, investors, support coordinators, participants and their families.
What’s the future of SDA housing?
While it might seem mostly doom and gloom at the moment for both participants and potential providers and investors, Greg was quite optimistic about the future for SDA.
“The biggest challenges include the complexity of the process - the SDA rules are quite complex. And an effective way of connecting SDA providers with participants, as it doesn’t seem to currently exist.”
And this connection is what the First2Care App is working towards. The app is designed to connect eligible participants with the support services and providers they need, and make the process as simple as possible.
SDA providers can create a free profile within the First2Care marketplace and list themselves under the support category: "008 Improved Living Arrangements". That way, participants who need assistance with accommodation can find them within this category and connect.
“While it would be nice if somebody could come by with a magic wand, I think the resolve of everybody that's in the space will fix it in time.”
“I’ve got an overriding sense that things are starting to happen and we’re going to be hearing a bunch of good news stories about SDA in as little as six months.”
Over to you…
What’s your experience so far of the SDA - whether as a participant, support person, or a potential provider? What are your ideas and suggestions for how this model could evolve and get the right funding and support to the right people?
Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. Let’s continue to bring more awareness and discussion to this issue.