For people with disabilities moving out of the home exercise, their independence in society can be difficult and daunting. The Specialist Disability Accommodations (SDA) service is provided by the Australian government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and can provide participants with the assistance they require to live a more fulfilling and independent life.
Specialist disability accommodation, or SDA, is a type of housing supported by the NDIS that is designed for people who have severe functional impairments or require extensive support. It is provided to help them transition to independent living in order to achieve their personal goals.
What is Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA), and how SDA Housing works?
Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) housing has been exclusively developed or modified to support National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants with extremely high support needs or extreme function impairment.
For instance, SDA will make sure you have a home that meets your needs if you have an acquired brain injury, an intellectual disability, or a complex mobility issue so you can get the support you need.
SDA gives people with disabilities a choice regarding their living arrangements, ensuring that they get the ideal housing design for them, complete with amenities, lighting, and access areas. SDA homes can be anything from a specially constructed apartment in a mixed development to a customized free-standing home.
Although SDA can significantly improve the quality of life for those who qualify, establishing a participant’s eligibility for this level of support can be difficult. It necessarily requires in-depth research and evaluations supported by grounded evidence. Because of this, the application and transition into SDA processes can be a little challenging, and there is a lot of confusion regarding how they operate. You can gain knowledge and confidence to complete the transition yourself by reading about it and talking to people who have already done it before.
What is SDA funding?
SDA funding is provided to help you purchase a physical residence. It exists to support individuals who require significant support or who have severe functional impairments in their daily lives.
Depending on your needs, SDA funding is available for four different types of homes. These are referred to as design categories and consist of:
Improved Liveability: For individuals with sensory, intellectual, or cognitive impairment, this type of home must provide a “reasonable” level of physical access.
Fully Accessible: For people with severe physical disabilities, this type of home must have a “high” level of physical access, including wheelchair accessibility in the kitchen, bathroom, and outdoor spaces.
High Physical Support: This type of home has highly specialized design and physical access features, for example, assistive and communication technologies, ceiling hoists, and emergency power solutions.
Robust: This kind of residence requires both good physical accessibility and additional safety features, such as staff and participant retreat areas and impact-resistant building materials.
At this point, all you need to know is that the NDIA will evaluate your SDA application and choose the category of home that is best for you based on your unique support requirements.
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Who is eligible for SDA?
Before you apply for NDIS SDA, you should be aware that there are strict SDA eligibility requirements. Only NDIS participants with the most severe functional impairments and/or the greatest physical support requirements are eligible for it. Currently, only 12,000 people, or about 6% of NDIS participants, meet these criteria. Priority is given to young people who are either receiving care for a loved one who is elderly or who are at risk of doing so.
You need to meet the following eligibility criteria for SDA from the NDIS:
- You must be at least 18 years old and eligible for benefits under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
- You have been approved as being eligible for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) funding because you have a severe functional impairment or have extremely high support needs, and it is reasonable and appropriate to provide you with special housing.
- Responsible for demonstrating that SDA will assist you in achieving your goals, improving your life, and minimizing the impact of your impairment on your functional ability.
If you have a severe functional impairment, you will typically:
- Have a lot of difficulties (or are unable to complete) daily tasks on your own
- Have difficulty moving around, performing personal care tasks, or looking after yourself and require extensive assistance from others to do at least one of these things.
If you have very strong support needs, you may require a lot of one-on-one support for much of the day and:
- Your family or friends may not be able to provide you with this level of support informally, or
- Living in SDA can help you reduce risk to yourself or others.
- If you have previously lived in SDA for extended periods of time and have found it difficult to transition to other living arrangements, you may have high support needs.
In other words, you must show that your request for SDA funding is reasonable and necessary to help you improve your independence, quality of life, and overall well-being.
You’ll typically demonstrate this by obtaining an occupational therapy assessment that highlights your NDIS housing goals and how the ‘bricks and mortar’ home will protect against long-term health deterioration and assist in capacity building.
How can I access SDA funding?
Only a small proportion (about 6%) of NDIS participants who meet certain eligibility requirements and have severe functional impairments or high support needs receive SDA funding.
If you have a severe functional impairment, you will have a lot of difficulty performing daily activities on your own, or you won’t be able to. You might experience great difficulty:
- Getting dressed
- Preparing meals
- Moving around
- Getting in and out of bed
- Accessing the community
It also implies that you will require a great deal of assistance from others in order to complete these tasks. In addition to any assistive technology or home modifications, this is required.
If you have very high support needs,’ you may also be eligible for SDA. This could imply:
- Your ‘informal support’ (people who help you without being paid, such as family or friends) is unable to meet your personal care needs.
- You have spent a significant amount of time in a group home or residential aged care.
- It could be dangerous for family or friends to assist you, or it could be dangerous for you.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), which administers the NDIS, considers a variety of factors to determine whether you have these types of support needs. This includes the following:
- Any advice given by your doctor or other health professionals
- Any information from your current providers
- Your daily assistance requirements
The NDIA will also consider whether SDA will provide you with long-term benefits for the following:
- Pursuing your objectives
- Increasing your functional capability (help you do more things with less support)
- reducing your need for one-on-one assistance
- Developing stronger bonds with your family, community, health care, education, and employment
Eligibility for SDA funding is taken into account during plan approval and plan review. Your first NDIS plan may include funding for Support Coordination and Therapeutic Support, which will allow you to assess and explore suitable housing alternatives.
The Activities of Daily Living (ADL) assessment, General Living Skills or Functional Capacity assessment, Balance and Mobility assessment, and other assessments are required to determine whether SDA funding should be allocated (as part of the Functional Capacity Assessment).
This information will be used by the NDIS to determine whether SDA payments are a necessary and reasonable support for you. SDA funding may then be considered during your next plan review.
If the NDIS determines that you are eligible for SDA payments, they will appear in your NDIS Plan as ‘capital support.’ There will be information describing the type of dwelling, the SDA housing design category, and the location funded by your Plan.
To receive SDA funding, you must not only demonstrate to the NDIS that you require high-level support, but you must also emphasize that there are no other appropriate options available and be prepared to back this up in your planning meeting.
Make it clear to the Local Area Coordinator (LAC) that your primary goal is to live independently and that you will need SDA funding to do so.
What Are the Requirements for a Successful SDA Application?
The application process can be time-consuming, and extensive research is required. First and foremost, contact Maple to find a suitable unit. After you apply and receive a conditional offer from us, you must complete the housing application to demonstrate your eligibility for SDA.
Maple Community Services’ Support Coordinator can assist you in completing the housing application. It should include proof that no other house or unit was otherwise suitable for you and your needs; some preliminary research may be required to provide sufficient proof.
A functional assessment can be completed in collaboration with your Occupational Therapist. This will show you which activities you can do independently at home and which you may need help with. It also shows your level of impairment and why SDA is the only viable option right now.
During this time, your Support Coordinator, OT, and SDA provider can be valuable allies. They can assist you with research and painting a complete picture of what your disability entails and what you require, so reach out to them and keep them updated throughout the process.
Submitting your Application
Your NDIS planner can submit your Housing Application to SDA. The SDA panel will review your application and determine whether or not you meet the criteria. This may take some time, so be patient.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your application, you can discuss it with your Support Coordinator and your NDIS Planner. They can contact the SDA panel on your behalf and, if necessary, obtain additional information from your SDA Provider.
How to apply for SDA Funding?
Step 1: – Housing Assessment Report
Your OT must conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine if you are eligible for SDA funding. It will take between 12 and 15 hours to complete and will highlight factors such as what type of house will best meet your needs.
Step 2: – Supporting documents
Supporting documents should be included with the assessment. These documents could include the following:
A letter of recommendation from your primary care physician, a specialist doctor, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, a speech pathologist, and other allied health practitioners.
A Housing Plan is a report from your Support Coordinator or Occupational Therapist that describes your current home and living situation. It will outline your requirements and what you expect from your future home.
Step 3: Apply to the NDIA
When you have completed all of your reports and support letters, you can apply to the NDIA for SDA funding.
You must fill out the Home and Living Supports Request Form and submit it to the NDIA with your supporting documents. This can be done via email, post, your Local Area Coordinator, or in person at the nearest NDIS office.
If you have a Support Coordinator, they will be able to assist you with the application.
How to know if the SDA application is approved?
Decisions on eligibility are usually made within 10 days of submitting your application. Because the evaluation is evidence-based, it is critical that you provide as much evidence to support your application as possible (for example, reports from allied health professionals, behavioural support plans, carer statements, and incident reports). If any additional information is required to make a decision, you will be contacted.
It’s also important to understand that even if you’re approved, it can take up to a year for SDA payments to be included in your plan. As a result, it is critical to apply for SDA funding as soon as possible, especially if your health is deteriorating.
What happens if SDA funding is approved?
You can begin looking for a new home once your SDA funding application has been approved by the NDIA.
There are several methods for looking for SDA homes in your area.
Private rental properties
The NDIS has an online SDA housing finder where you can search for vacancies by location.
Many SDA vacancies, however, are advertised on Housing Hub and Go Nest. These are online housing portals where you can create a profile. When new homes become available, you will be notified.
You can also inquire directly with your local SDA and Supported Independent Living providers about SDA housing vacancies.
Some providers may place advertisements on the aforementioned websites. Others will use their own website for advertising vacancies, a local real estate agent, or support coordinators to find tenants.
You can inquire with your support coordinator about housing providers they know who may have suitable housing for you.
Go to Housing Vic, Housing SA, or the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice to find government-owned disability housing.
Buy your own home
You can use your SDA funding to purchase your own SDA-compliant home. In this case, you would be considered a “self-provider” of SDA. Your residence must still meet the SDA’s dwelling enrolment requirements and guidelines. You must also register with the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission as a self-provider.
If you purchase a home that is not specifically designed for people with disabilities, the NDIS may provide funding to help you install the necessary home modifications and assistive technology.
Upgrade your existing home
You might already own a home. Perhaps you purchased it before you needed something more convenient. In some cases, you may be able to use NDIS funding to make home adjustments to better suit your needs.
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What is an SDA Housing Assessment?
An SDA assessment is one of the basic requirements for applying for SDA and consists of a thorough evaluation of your current and future needs. It then makes a recommendation to the NDIS, demonstrating your eligibility for SDA as well as the specific features needed for independent and safe living.
During this often lengthy process, it is critical to rely on your Support Coordinator, NDIS Planner, SDA provider, and Health Support Team members such as your GP or Occupational Therapist. If you are considering or are in the process of applying for SDA and require additional information, please contact Maple Community Services.
Difference between Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) and Supported Independent Living (SIL)
SDA refers to the physical homes where support services are provided rather than the services themselves. The NDIS assesses and funds these supports separately as Supported Independent Living (SIL) costs.
Whereas SDA funding is typically approved for participants with severe disabilities or high support needs, SIL funding is approved for participants who want to live as independently as possible.
You may be approved for both SDA and SIL, but your NDIS Plan will fund them separately. If your plan includes both SDA and SIL funding, you can select different providers for each. This can give you more options and control, as well as ensure that you receive the best possible support.