Thank you very much John for that kind introduction.
To begin I would like to acknowledge the first peoples and traditional owners of this land, the people of the Wathaurong people.
I pay my respects to their Elders past and present, and to all Elders from other communities who may be here today.
Can I acknowledge:
- Dot Leigh, President, VALID Inc.
- Kevin Stone, CEO, VALID Inc.
- John McKenna, Empowerment Advocate, VALID Inc.
Thank you for the invitation to have me back at this year’s Having a Say Conference – sorry I couldn’t get here earlier – and this particular forum on future housing and accommodation options – to talk about Housing Reform for people with a disability with the enormous changes under way – we need to set it in the context of the big cultural and service delivery reforms we are seeing with the NDIS.
The work of VALID, other advocacy groups and self-advocacy groups has always been important. It is even more crucial now in helping with the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme – and the theme for this year’s conference “lead your life”, about the powers of self-advocacy, is timely indeed. In fact getting more important as the challenges of the NDIS appear daily on our plate.
Today I want to briefly talk about the transition to the NDIS and what we are working on in Victoria to ensure the NDIS meets on expectations for full-scheme rollout – before dealing with housing in that roll out.
An important part of the scheme – and more generally to decent society – is the provision of secure appropriate housing for people with a disability.
The Victorian Government is committed to working hard with the Commonwealth, other States and Territories and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to deliver the NDIS that we signed up to.
Some would say we are working harder because of the Federal Government but that’s for others to judge.
A NDIS that delivers support that is based on participants choosing the types of supports they need.
A NDIS that uses an insurance based approach to planning and support delivery.
A NDIS that reflects each individual participant’s goals and aspirations and is an enabler to every participant to “lead their own lives”.
In Victoria, we will continue to work with people with a disability, their families and carers and advocacy and self-advocacy groups on delivering the scheme – as envisaged – as promised.
We are also working with the NDIA and the Commonwealth on the transition, to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible and that the NDIS is the best scheme that we all signed up to.
The transition is not without its challenges. North East Melbourne, which started last July, is now well advanced in the rollout – despite substantial early problems. The implementation in Central Highlands, which started in January, is going smoother than North East Melbourne.
Getting participants successfully into the scheme is about more than the number of first plan approvals – the key is quality and delivery.
The Victorian Government has worked closely with the NDIA on fixing some of the problems, including through seconding our experienced staff, who are well versed in all things planning, to assist the Agency and we welcome the recognition by the NDIA that its employment levels were optimistic.
Quality planning is important for all participants and it is especially important for participants with complex support needs, including those who need specialist disability accommodation.
To ensure that plans are implemented well and that goals can be achieved, it will also be important that the NDIA’s approach to pricing or funding supports is sufficient to ensure there are providers of high quality supports operating in the NDIS. No where is price as important to participants than when it comes to a roof over peoples heads.
Another focus is to ensure Victoria has a high-quality disability workforce as we roll out the NDIS.
Late last year, I released our plan – Keeping our sector strong: Victoria’s workforce plan on how we will act now to build the disability workforce of the future.
The plan provides a $26 million investment in workforce development, training and skills initiatives. It didn’t get much attention but it’s the hard work of building the NDIS that will count.
It will also be important that appropriate quality and safeguards and regulations are in place to protect participants from harm and to promote high quality and safe supports in the NDIS.
We have committed to maintaining the State’s quality and safety measures through transition to the full-scheme. The Victorian Government has fought hard to make the National Quality and Safeguards Framework at least as comprehensive as the current Victorian Framework and, where possible, improve on existing safeguards.
The Victorian Government’s response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Abuse, outlines Victoria’s plan to develop a Zero Tolerance Strategy, strengthen the powers of the Disability Services Commissioner, expand the Disability Worker Exclusion Scheme and institute its own Workforce Accreditation and Registration Scheme.
So be assured – where the National Framework is found to be wanting Victoria will not hesitate to deliver.
The right personal support is not enough by itself for people with a disability to lead the sorts of lives they want to.
Access to safe, affordable and secure housing is a great example of how the NDIS and mainstream housing can offer a range of housing options for all people with a disability – that housing services become disability inclusive.
The Productivity Commission originally calculated about six per cent of all NDIS participants would be assessed to need some form of specialist disability accommodation, or SDA. This would be around 6,300 people in Victoria at full scheme in 2019.
Broader strategies to improve access to affordable and accessible housing options are central to the NDIS objectives so to supporting people with a disability who are not eligible for SDA to live independently and to change the way that we view supported accommodation, which has traditionally been focused on 24 hour support in group settings.
The State Disability Plan includes specific actions to increase the availability of accessible and affordable housing options for people with a disability not eligible for SDA – and we will have more to say on this.
In addition, as part of our broader commitment, during the last year the Victorian Government announced over $600 million of new funding for housing and homeless assistance. This will have a focus of helping people at risk and investing in new housing models to respond to the greatest areas of need including for people with a disability.
Already a number of social housing providers are positioning to partner with service and care providers to look at innovative models of housing.
In addition to providing more general public and social housing the Victorian Government has, through its disability program, provided funding for group homes sometimes called Community Residential Units, typically where four five or sometimes six or more people live with 24 hour support.
The funding for this type of housing is also transferring to the NDIS and this is why we have been working with other jurisdictions to ensure an appropriate specialist disability housing response is available through the NDIS.
The introduction of the SDA funding under the NDIS also provides an important opportunity to increase the supply of specialist accommodation for people with a disability and to stimulate innovation in housing solutions for participants with extreme functional impairment and/or very high support needs. Over time, this will mean Victoria can transition from its current accommodation models to a range of innovative SDA options that support independence and social and economic participation.
The NDIA’s approach of separating accommodation and support will also bring increased choice and control for participants. This approach will allow participants to choose the providers of their housing separate to their support services, and the way in which they are delivered.. its at the heart of the NDIS housing model – looking after bricks and mortar is another.
Importantly, we have successfully advocated with the Commonwealth that people in Victoria within group homes will be eligible for SDA. We are confident that those living in group homes will be able to continue to live in their homes until they choose to move, or until the condition of the house means it is no longer fit for purpose or there are better options on offer. Because if choice and control is real – then choice to stay in SDA homes is an equally valid choice.
Through the NDIS, SDA will provide for a payment to the housing provider to provide and maintain appropriate accommodation.
The payment is attached to an individual, so if people choose to move then the payment moves to the new housing provider.
The person can also change the support provider, without having to move.
But we know that not everyone wants to live in a group home.
And that choice and control applies as much to housing as to anything else in the NDIS.
There are different payments for different types of properties, locations, and for existing and new properties that reflect costs and preferences.
The payment system rolling out under the NDIS is higher for new properties and we are working to ensure this will stimulate investment in innovative housing – but that means payments for older legacy housing are lower – making bigger and older homes more problematic.
Decisions about the type of housing, the location of housing and housing provider are also important parts of the planning process that participants in association with planners need to get it right.
Through transition, the Victorian Government will continue with a way to manage vacancies, ensuring the protections under the Victoria Disability Act will apply. Policy decisions are needed to finalise the tenancy protections for SDA post transition and these should complement and build on where necessary for a Victorian leadership role through the National Quality and Safety framework.
There are a number of other significant policy matters that still need consideration.
For the Victorian Government one of them is the future operation of the houses that are part of the State’s shared supported accommodation program.
In all there are about 1030 group home properties owned by the Victorian Government and non-government organisations (government owns 700). A large proportion of the 700 are also operated by the state Government and about a third of the homes owned by government are leased to non-government agencies.
The Victorian Government’s overall aim is for the continued provision of SDA and protections of residents’ rights. The Government also wants to achieve:
- Innovative housing that leads to better outcomes
- An increase in the amount of SDA that people want to live in
- A dynamic pool of providers that increase “choice and control” outcomes; and
- Sustainable and quality housing for participants.
So the future operating and ownership model of the houses needs to be considered as to how to achieve the goal. It is a complex policy matter which the government will need to work through.
Crucial to this is – that we are working and guided by you. We want to continue hearing the views of people with a disability, their families and carers on this and other important policy matters.
I want to do this through broad consultation. I know the future provision of specialist disability accommodation is vitally important to people with a disability and their families.
At the end of the day – it’s your home! Or the home of those you love.
In addition to broad consultation, the Victorian Government has established an Implementation Taskforce that is chaired by myself and the Special Minister for State, Gavin Jennings, to advise of the implementation of the NDIS. Can I take this opportunity to thank VALID for their strong leadership and advice through this process – you are lucky to have Kevin on your side, but you know that.
The Taskforce has a number of working groups including one of Disability Housing, which has already provided important input to the development and operation of SDA and more generally on disability housing.
I am also looking forward to continued conversations with people with a disability about their real life experience and their experience of the NDIS. There is nothing more valuable than what you tell me about your actual personal experiences, and your views about the NDIS and disability issues more broadly – forcefully loud and clear.
So thank you for your invaluable contributions. Don’t stop advocating – don’t stop organising and don’t stop pushing for a better inclusive deal until the goal of an ordinary life is achieved in reality.