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New SDA Operational Guidelines

Todd covers what are mostly positive steps forward for Specialist Disability Accommodation.

By Todd Winther

Updated 15 Apr 20241 Dec 2021

The new Operational Guidelines (OGs) for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) symbolise the continuing evolution of Home and Living over the past twelve months. These changes are designed to streamline many SDA processes for providers and participants but have had mixed results.

Combining SDA Eligibility and Support Services

Perhaps the most consequential indicator of change in the OGs is the focus on developing a participant's SDA options and support services at the same time. For example, a single sentence on page six of the OGs explicitly states, "We need to know how… supports would work in Specialist Disability Accommodation”. These words are in sharp contrast to how the approval process has operated. Currently, SDA is approved first, followed by a separate process to approve in-home support services, most often through Supported Independent Living (SIL) funding. Going forward, it now seems unlikely that a participant would receive approval for SDA without being approved for their supports at the same time.

Strict Interpretations of Eligibility

More generally, the OGs are focused on a tighter interpretation of the overall SDA eligibility criteria. This change in focus can be framed as a positive step because this clarity helps providers and participants understand precisely what is required to obtain SDA funding. Stricter interpretations also allow the Agency to contain costs, an important goal for the Agency given the ongoing conversations regarding Scheme sustainability. However, tighter interpretations will also cause more frustration in what is already a complicated process. As SDA veterans know, nothing is ever simple.

SDA Budgets

One of the more positive changes to the guidelines is more precise explanations about how SDA budgets are used within a participant's plan. The OGs also provide more straightforward answers regarding how budgets are implemented. For example, suppose a participant moves into a property that costs less than the participant’s SDA budget. In that case, the accommodation provider will only be able to claim the property’s value rather than the total value of the participant's budget.

SDA Finder

Lastly, the OGs point the reader towards the SDA Finder tool, which the Agency has developed to help participants search for vacancies. The SDA Finder also provides information regarding the types of dwellings available, based on design categories. The Finder is a welcome initiative for both providers and participants to increase demand for properties.

When changes to the OGs provide a more detailed interpretation of critical elements of the Scheme, it is always a step in the right direction. However, those participants who wish to become eligible for SDA and providers looking to attract them should note these changes carefully and brace for the possibility that obtaining funding could become more complex.

Authors

Todd Winther

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