DSC’s Annual NDIS Conference 2024

Sydney & Online, March 26-27


NDIS 101

Home & Living

What is SDA?

Team DSC

Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) is purpose-built housing for NDIS participants with extreme functional impairments and/or very high support needs. SDA is often referred to as the “bricks and mortar” because it refers to the specialist housing component, not the supports provided within it.

There are four types of SDA housing categories that each have their own design standard.  

  • Robust housing includes physical access provisions and is designed with more structural integrity, thereby reducing the need for constant physical maintenance while minimising safety risks to participants and the community. Robust housing design is ideal for participants who require extensive behavioural support and can incorporate breakout rooms and safe spaces.

  • Improved Liveability is best utilised to increase physical access and independence for sensory, intellectual or cognitive impairments. This design category may include extra additions to the house to ensure the participant’s safety and facilitate their increased independence. For example, modifications may include increasing access to the kitchen to contribute to meal preparation.

  • Fully Accessible incorporates design features for participants with higher-level physical support needs to increase their physical independence and reduce the need for support services. For example, design features may include significant bathroom modifications so that the participant can shower independently or transfer on and off the toilet.

  • High Physical Support incorporates significant access provisions for people who have severe physical disabilities and require extensive one to one support.  A common feature of these properties is reinforcements placed in the ceiling to install a hoist, which allows the participant to be transferred from their bed to a wheelchair or a shower chair with the assistance of a support worker. 

Who is eligible for SDA?

Participants apply via the Home and Living Supporting Evidence form process of requesting a review or addition of home and living goals to their NDIS plan. Participants must have an ‘extreme functional impairment’ and/or have ‘very high support needs’ to be found eligible for SDA. If the participant meets one or both of these criteria, they may receive SDA funding.  Only 6% of total NDIS participants are likely to be eligible for SDA funding.

The eligibility criteria to determine whether participants are eligible for SDA is enshrined in federal legislation, known as The SDA Rules

The Federal Government drafted the latest version of The SDA Rules on June 23rd 2020. The Rules provide a strict yet precise interpretation of which participants are eligible for SDA. For a participant to be classified as having an ‘extreme functional impairment’  or ‘very high support needs’ they:

  • Need assistance with mobility, self-care or self-management. 

  • Require person to person assistance in undertaking activities of daily living (ADLs), even when assistive technology is available or can be provided.

  • Have lived in other SDA for an extended period, and in doing so, their functional capacity has been reduced.

  • Have a very high need for person to person support for a ‘significant part of the day’ because of their impairment or because the participant poses a safety risk to themselves and/or others.  

The process to demonstrate that a participant meets the above criteria requires numerous functional assessments, usually facilitated by a support coordinator to demonstrate why the applicant qualifies. Therefore, a thorough evaluation is necessary when constructing a report to argue for SDA eligibility. The assessment should explain how the participant meets the criteria as outlined in the above bullet points. 

Once these assessments are conducted, an independent panel determines whether the participant is entitled to SDA funding.

Additional information can be found in the NDIA’s SDA Operational Guidelines.

Artwork by Melissa Pym.