A quick look at the complicated world of specialist disability accommodation.
Keep hearing about SDA, but not quite sure what it is or if it relates to you?
To find out more, we spoke to Alison Kidd, a Supports Coordinator who’s worked at Spinal Life Australia for four years, and – along with the Supports Coordination team – helps participants of the NDIS navigate the confusing world of SDA. Those documents, forms and paperwork that have most people cowering in terror? The Supports Coordinators deal with them before they’ve even had breakfast. In short: they are definitely the team you want on your side when you’re dealing with SDA!
So What is SDA?
SDA means Specialist Disability Accommodation. It might be a house or an apartment or a unit, and it’s for people who have physical support needs, or behavioural or safety needs.
Some of the features you can expect in an SDA home include wider doorways and hallways, lots of circulation space, and accessible kitchens and bathrooms. “Some places might also include things like home automation, ceiling hoist provision and around-the-clock onsite support,’ says Alison, “and even things like height-adjustable bench tops, to accommodate a person living with a spinal cord injury who uses a wheelchair, as well as – for example – their partner who does not.”
Am I Eligible?
• Your NDIS goals include housing
• You have very high support needs
• Your ‘informal supports’ (eg unpaid family or friends) can’t meet your personal care needs
• You’ve spent a long time in a group home or residential aged care
• Mainstream housing, home modifications on an existing building, assistive technology, or being provided with SIL supports cannot meet your
• Even with appropriate home modifications and/or assistive technologies, you still need a high level of in-home support from a paid worker with daily activities such as getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, moving around, preparing meals and accessing the community
How Does SDA Work?
“To give you a simplified example of the journey through the SDA,” says Alison, “if we had a participant with a housing problem, we would usually engage an SDA specialist and an Occupational Therapist, who would do a detailed assessment of the person’s needs and their life situation. The relevant documents would then be submitted to the NDIS for approval for funding.”
If the application is approved, the next big thing is finding out what type of accommodation the participant has been approved for (for example, apartment, duplex, house, shared home etc), and in what category. There are four different categories:
- Improved Liveability (buildings require a ‘reasonable’ level of physical access)
- Fully Accessible (must have good wheelchair accessibility)
- High Physical Support (need a very high level of specialised design and physical access)
Whatever category and type of accommodation you’re approved for will equate to a dollar amount per year. For example, you might be approved for $30,000 for a fully accessible share house, so therefore you’d go and find a place that ticked all these boxes. The SDA provider running the house would then claim $30,000 from the NDIS every year for the time you stay in that home. That money reimburses them for the costs involved in building an accessible property, which have much higher building standards than a regular home, and have to be maintained to an incredibly high standard for the lifetime of the property. But you still need to pay rent and utilities on top of this.
“There are a lot of SDA properties now – in places like the northern Gold Coast, around Ormeau, Pimpama and Coomera, and also North Lakes and the northern suburbs of Brisbane, as well as inner city and Gold Coast apartments; often anywhere where there’s been a big housing development boom. But even so, the entire process to get SDA approval tends to take at least six to 12 months.”
It’s not a perfect program, and a lot of the time there are disconnects with the people making the decisions and doing the approvals. For example, I support a participant who, for medical diagnoses reasons, requested a single-occupant dwelling in his submission. It would be unsuitable if he went into a share house, but they approved him for a three-person share house. We’ve requested and have been approved for a review. But the NDIS is just exhaustingly slow and the review still hasn’t taken place. So, we’ve negotiated a solution with another SDA provider who luckily agreed to rent him a different property for same money that he was approved for. He’s going to pay the same rent, with a family member co-tenant paying the difference. For the people who have received approval and actually moved into SDA homes, the overwhelming feeling they seem to experience when it happens is relief. It’s such a weight off their shoulders to have a permanent housing solution for the rest of their lives.”