Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) is NDIS funded specialist housing support for people with disability. SDA is intended to ensure housing requirements of people with very high support needs or extreme functional impairments can be delivered.

The NDIA explain that SDA funding can only be provided to a small proportion of NDIS participants as part of their support plans. They estimate this proportion will be 6%. When disability accommodation providers register their properties as SDA, they guarantee financial support to make the homes more accessible and liveable for people with high needs.   

“It’s important funding to have,” explains Naomi Kiarie-Gichanja, from Achieve Australia’s My Pathway team. “This funding helps to cover rent, some helps to restore houses to make them accessible, some funding will be used to install assistive technology. Most providers’ houses are SDA funded, because they can’t afford to run them without it.”

SDA provides secure funding for people with high needs to create liveable homes. That should be great news. But, there’s a problem. Let’s break it down.   

  1. SDA funding is only approved for a small minority of NDIS participants, around 6%.  
  2. Most disability accommodation is classified as SDA.  
  3. If an NDIS participant doesn’t have the appropriate funding approved in their support plan, they cannot access SDA.   

So where does this leave the other 94% of NDIS participants when looking for disability accommodation? For many, it means they have been locked out of the system.

Crowle Estate - Achieve Australia's Supported Disability Accommodation

Despite demand, Achieve Australia staff have struggled to fill vacancies in platinum standard Crowle Estate.

“The NDIA refers to SDA as the ‘last resort’, because it’s for individuals with the highest needs and most severe disabilities,” says Millie Zhang, Support Coordination Program Lead at Achieve Australia. “My colleagues and I have to research all other options for housing, write a report for our client and submit it to the NDIA.”   

A Support Coordinator’s role is to help NDIS participants manage their support plans so each individual gets the best results possible. To prove that SDA is somebody’s “last resort”, Support Coordinators and families are asked to provide evidence that they have attended private rental inspections, then prove why those homes were not appropriate for the participant.   

Finding secure employment is often difficult for people with disability, making it hard to cover private rental costs. But Support Coordinators have been told that this is an insufficient reason for the NDIA to approve SDA funding.   

After exploring the private rental market, the next option is social housing. The minimum wait time for social housing in NSW is five years, and most is not accessible or suitably designed for people with disability.    

A last resort for those who can’t access SDA is residential aged care or nursing homes. For a young person with disability who has hobbies and interests, wants to engage with the community and has a network of friends, this is a far less than desirable solution. For ageing parents who are the primary carers for children with disability, the concern that their adult children will not find suitable long-term housing is extremely stressful.    

The vacancies in disability accommodation are plentiful, as are the people who would like to apply to live in these homes. However, if SDA applications continue to be rejected at the same rate, they will remain vacant.    

To find a solution to these problems we need to start a conversation. Over the coming months, we’ll continue to investigate issues with SDA through a series of articles. If you have a story or information you’d like to share with us, contact us via email at enable@achieveaustralia.org.au   


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