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Barriers to investment in key government policy

· Ross Dennis,NDIS,Housing,Analysis

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was designed to help Australia’s most vulnerable. Almost 10 years on from its launch in 2013 the NDIS has risen to be a cornerstone of Australia’s social welfare and yet it is a growing dedication of budget finances. The vast majority of funding, around a third is dedicated for in-house support provided to 5% of NDIS participants with the highest needs. There are competing statistics about the effectiveness of transitioning those under 65 with acute needs living in aged care. In 2021, only 30 younger people left aged care to live in Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA).

Getting younger people with specialist care and needs out of aged care has been a policy priority for successive governments. However, there are no practical solutions outside of creating a specific facility for young people or help to find private accommodation. The NDIS does provide funding for the renovation of homes to be retrofitted to accommodate one’s needs. Yet if the NDIS participant doesn’t own their house, and they are renting off a private provider the situation becomes more complex.

A private rental provider may rent their home to an NDIS participant, if they are registered as a provider. To facilitate the growth of private investment and homes, the NDIS has created the Specialist Disability Accommodation Design Standards. The design standards outline four specific needs-based categories:

  1. Improved Liveability Housing that has been designed to improve ‘Liveability’ by incorporating a reasonable level of physical access and enhanced provision for people with sensory, intellectual or cognitive impairment.
  2. Robust Housing that has been designed to incorporate a reasonable level of physical access provision and be very resilient, reducing the likelihood of reactive maintenance and reducing the risk to the participant and the community.
  3. Fully Accessible Housing that has been designed to incorporate a high level of physical access provision for people with significant physical impairment.
  4. High Physical Support Housing that has been designed to incorporate a high level of physical access provision for people with significant physical impairment and requiring very high levels of support.

The design standards and the complex policy environment surrounding SDAs have created an artificial barrier to investment. As it stands, a private rental provider must have their designed upgrade to their property approved, before they can enrol the property into the scheme – and before works can start. The process is more suitable for those owning their own homes or new builds, rather than converting existing stock. Consequently this has resulted in supply issues and underinvestment in SDAs.

While the NDIS has seen great results in helping improve the lives of participants it continues to face a number of serious complex policy questions without easy answers. Housing and the supply of new stock is an issue facing both the NDIS and the housing market in general. There is a need to ensure SDAs are made more accessible to those that need them, without risking individual's health and safety - this is something that needs to be better addressed and should be a priority of our governments, both state and federal.

Ross Dennis is a Policy Analyst at FPL Advisory.

FPL Advisory is a team of specialists resolving risks and creating opportunities with respect to government. We work with public sector and corporate clients to execute strategies for owning and managing change.