DSC’s Annual NDIS Conference 2024

Sydney & Online, March 26-27

Home & Living

The Independent Review on home & living

Todd Winther

The Interim Report for the Ten-Year review of the NDIS has comprehensively dissected Home and Living policy, and it did not hold back. It suggests that the Home and Living framework needs a drastic overhaul and revamp. Over the past decade, Home and Living policy within the NDIS has had significant structural flaws. The Interim Report addressed this, and its criticism is frank and welcomed. This feedback addresses some fundamental flaws within Home and Living, and the Review will likely have an impact on the Scheme and its participants for years to come.

So, what did it say? What can we do to change things? Join me, and let’s get our policy nerd on.

How Did We Get Here?

Reform in Home and Living has been promised for a very long time. I first asked whether the policy would change two years ago. The NDIA released its Home and Living Consultation Paper five months later, but the policy has yet to be released. In its absence, the Interim Review Report is significant because it demonstrates what Home and Living Policy looks like for the people it serves. The Ten-Year Review Process asks its contributors to examine the existing NDIS structure. It also allows people to look beyond the Agency’s current funding models, and remake housing policy from scratch. 

To prompt further conversation, the Interim Report addressed 12 points that can be boiled down into critical areas.

The Funding Processes

The Interim Report says that the process of funding home and living supports, needs to change. Feedback from the Report says that funding decisions must be more collaborative. A recent report co-funded by the Agency, which surveyed 143 participants with a wide variety of disabilities, supports this conclusion. It argued that finding a place to live was extremely difficult. Additionally, the application process for in-home support funding was confusing and overly complicated. The confusion is compounded because the models are too proscriptive, leaving little room to customise services to meet a participant’s needs.

Adopting more collaborative approaches could certainly address concerns identified by the Interim Report, and in the media, about the overall costs of the Scheme. This suggestion leads to another critical area of concern.

Choice and Control

Disappointingly, the feedback to the Interim Report indicates that the founding principle of the NDIS, supporting choice and control, has not reached its full potential in the home and living space. The Report makes abundantly clear that this is a significant problem.

Too few housing and living arrangements are fostering more inclusive and connected lives in the community.

This conclusion could indicate that respondents to the Review are unhappy with the current support models, particularly SIL, which is perceived to prioritise the provision of support to scale, while limiting the ability of participants to decide where and how they choose to live. Consequently, Home and Living solutions delivered in bulk, remain a significant part in the Scheme.

Supported Independent Living and outdated ‘group houses’, where participants are not actively supported in community life and where there is significant risk of harm and abuse, still dominate the system.

Although the report does not recommend that the provision of housing and support should be separated, this would allow participants further opportunities to design models that suit them, as was originally intended. Increasing the range of options for the delivery of services would also lessen segregation. Until this separation occurs, genuine choice and control in home and living will remain an aspiration, rather than becoming a reality. However, this separation is far easier to promise than achieve. No doubt, providers would be asking what separating these supports would look like so they could deliver a sustainable service for the participants they support.  

There are no easy or quick answers. Hopefully, the Final Review Report will guide us towards having a conversation that should have started years ago. 

The Market

The Interim Report panel has also highlighted another critical challenge in Home and Living.

There is too much significant, old and poorly designed specialist disability accommodation. There has been insufficient market facilitation to incentivise redevelopment and meet residents’ expectations.

Supply for accessible and affordable housing doesn’t match demand inside the NDIS and in the mainstream property market. Whether you have a disability or not, it is hard to find a rental property that suits your needs, and even harder to purchase a property. The Interim Report acknowledges this, and notes that the emphasis is placed on the NDIS to be the only solution for all participants (this is a dominant theme throughout the entire Report). Therefore, the NDIA can only implement significant change around the edges of the entire property market.

So, What’s Next?

The most important part of the Interim Report is the prompting questions at the end. These questions are an excellent way to summarise and personalise the challenges that participants and providers face. This is where you come in. Let’s take a look at the last question because it’s a brilliant one.

How can housing and living supply responses be encouraged to be more innovative and aligned with participant needs?

The Independent Review Panel wants us to dream big, think laterally, and asks us what we want. We must respond if we want to change Home and Living and address the issues highlighted in the Interim Report. Do not waste the opportunity.

Artwork by Louise Cooper.

Author

Todd Winther

Todd is a political nerd with an academic background in political leadership, party politics, and disability policy who has taught these subjects at multiple universities. He is also an NDIS Participant who has a severe form of Cerebral Palsy. Todd combines these two seemingly different in...

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