A couple of recent announcements regarding reforms to the Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) program should provide some positive news to participants and providers.
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants will now be able to apply for SDA straight away without having to investigate all other accommodation options, and includes the removal of the majority bedroom rule to allow more properties to be enrolled as SDA, allowing couples to share a bedroom and allowing children to share a room with their siblings.
A dedicated, national and experienced team will also guide NDIS participants and the assessment progress enabling a consistent and more efficient SDA process. In addition, there will be price certainty for NDIS participants which will make it easier for them to own their own SDA property while sourcing financial support from mainstream and innovative finance providers.
Principal Consultant at Disability Services Consulting (DSC) Brent Woolgar says there is no bad news within the recent announcement. “DSC believes this is the single most important day for SDA since its launch and it will finally open the doors for at-scale delivery of SDA for the significant benefit of people with disability living in unsuitable environments.”
The announcement was made by Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services Paul Fletcher at the opening of a new SDA development by community housing organisation, Summer Housing in Fairfield in Victoria. “The Government is introducing immediate changes to improve choice and control for eligible NDIS participants, build market confidence and drive stronger investment in Specialist Disability Accommodation,” Mr Fletcher says. “These reforms will stimulate construction and supply of SDA properties, creating more diverse accommodation options for NDIS participants.
“SDA prices will not change unexpectedly and can be adjusted up if systemic cost pressures emerge. SDA properties under construction will be able to be pre-certified to give investors more certainty that their property will meet SDA design standards on completion. “Summer Housing is one of around 750 current providers of Specialist Disability Accommodation which will benefit from the changes to drive greater investment.” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Summer Foundation Luke Bo’sher says the changes are great news for the SDA sector. “By restoring confidence in the Specialist Disability Accommodation market, we should now see a more optimistic environment which will allow for bespoke housing solutions for young people with high care needs.”
Almost $700 million in SDA payments will be made each year to support almost 28,000 NDIS participants requiring a specialist housing solution when the NDIS is fully rolled out next year. The Department of Social Services (DSS) and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will engage with stakeholders to provide feedback on how to implement these changes immediately.
Along with this announcement Mr Fletcher also announced the members of the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Reference Group. "The purpose of the SDA reference group is to represent participants, providers, investors and other key stakeholders, and to support and promote the development of the SDA market as we implement reforms announced in February, improving choice and control for participants. "Membership of the SDA Reference Group includes 15 appointed representatives from across the disability sector, including SDA providers such as community housing providers, investors and financiers, developers, and research and policy organisations.
"The reference group also includes participants and government representatives. "Members will be joined by key senior representatives of the Department of Social Services, NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission and NDIA. "The membership of the group reflects the diversity of SDA stakeholders, experts and the market." In addition to government, the SDA Reference Group members include representatives of:
Ability First Australia
National Disability Services
People with Disability Australia
Spinal Cord Injuries Australia
Supported Independent Living Co-op
The Summer Foundation
The SDA Reference Group is expected to meet regularly, with the first meeting planned for the end of March 2019. The SDA Reference Group will consult with other stakeholders where appropriate, including state and territory governments.