Further action needed to improve safety and independent living for people with disability

    The Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS has recently released the report from its inquiry into Supported Independent Living (SIL). The Report has 45 recommendations, with five marked as urgent:

    • The NDIA needs to develop a clear guide on Supported Independent Living
    • The NDIA should implement measures to streamline and expedite quote approvals
    • The NDIA should progress the committee recommendations on the NDIS ICT Systems
    • The NDIS needs to publish a clear policy on providers of last resort and crisis accommodation
    • The Disability Reform Council should address the issues around the availability of advocacy and decision support services.

    Although the report does not specifically mention young people with disability, it includes relevant recommendations to support greater choice and control; for example prioritising the approval of supported living accommodation for people with disability so they can access housing if they are currently in residential aged care, hospital settings, and the criminal justice system. Around 6,000 Australians with disability aged under 65 years are in permanent residential aged care and even young people are sometimes forced to take this option in the absence of appropriate alternatives to support their care needs.

    Another important recommendation we believe needs to be urgently actioned is  for the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to implement additional oversight measures for participants in group living arrangements. The tragic death of Ann-Marie Smith in South Australia highlights that our national ‘watchdog’ needs to be proactive in providing outreach to people with disability, who experience higher rates of abuse and neglect. Additionally, the Disability Royal Commission’s public hearing into homes and living arrangements showed the clear need to examine the causes of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of residents of group homes and their right to choose where to live and who with.

    Supported Independent Living has been an ongoing issue for the NDIS, and with few changes made since the start of the Scheme, the current quote process is not in line with the NDIS promise of self-direction, choice and control for participants. Simple changes like the recommendation to allow participants to review their SIL quotes and draft plans before they’re approved – also recommended by the Tune Review – will make a big difference for participants.

    We are pleased to see the report highlighting the urgent need to address issues around the provision of advocacy for NDIS participants. Demand for advocacy services is only increasing as more people join the NDIS, become involved with the Disability Royal Commission, and experience the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated service disruptions. Independent advocacy organisations should be supported appropriately to work with participants and their families when and where needed, including for SIL goals and the broader planning process.

    It’s been four years since the start of the rollout of the NDIS and – acknowledging the recommended changes will require the coordination of actions from the NDIA and federal and state governments – we are hopeful we will soon see the implementation of changes participants have been waiting for, for a long time.

    June 2020