Housing Delayed and Denied: Improving Access to Specialist Disability Accommodation

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Specialist Disability Accommodation, or SDA, is a vital piece of infrastructure for may disabled people or people with disabilities to navigate their own homes and retain independence. Things like wider corridors, hoists in bathrooms and bedrooms, specific bench hights, and the installation of assistive technology are all examples of Specialist Disability Accommodations with huge impacts on the independence, safety, and quality of life for disabled people. As such, SDAs are funded as part of the NDIS. However, despite recent improvement spurred on by the advocacy of organisations and individuals, a recent report from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Housing Hub shows there is still great room for improvement in the decisions and delivery of these vital accommodations.

The new report offers 10 recommendations, including that the NDIA should ensure that the SDA Operational Guideline is appropriate and complies with the law, and that “[t]he NDIA urgently prioritise decisions relating to people seeking SDA who are in hospital awaiting discharge, living in RAC as a younger person, and/or facing homelessness. In these cases participant choice, needs, and the potential for SDA to maximise independence and create a pathway back to community living should be given even greater weight in decision-making.”

From the PIAC media release (available here):

Agency data shows 94% of requests for Home and Living supports were finalised within 90 days in the quarter to March 2023, compared to just 68% in the same quarter of 2022.

Additionally, data in our report shows a smaller proportion of people received initial funding decisions that did not match their requested supports, dropping from 55% between 2017-22, to 26% in 2022-23.

Meaningful improvements have also been made to the NDIA’s process for engaging with external reviews of decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), with the NDIA identifying AAT cases that can be settled and proactively resolving them faster. This has reduced the time that participants with strong cases must wait to receive appropriate SDA funding.

Yet improvements to the SDA decision-making process are not consistent.

The NDIS continues to make poor planning decisions and avoidable errors. For example, the new report found Agency staff continue too often to ignore crucial evidence when making decisions, sometimes leaving participants living in unsuitable or even unsafe conditions.

These poor decisions create delays in the appeals process, as participants are forced to request reviews of clearly erroneous decisions to receive the supports they need.

PIAC and the Housing Hub’s primary recommendation is that the NDIA urgently overhauls its internal processes and policies to eliminate critical errors in planning and the delivery of incorrect advice to participants.

PIAC ‘Improving access to specialist disability accommodation’, 7/09/2023

The report, Data Update: NDIA Decision-Making Timeframes on Specialist Disability Accommodation Funding, is available for free at: https://piac.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Data_update__Housing_Delayed_and_Denied_September_2023.pdf.