NDIA participants concerned about lack of disability housing

Margaret Paul reported this story on Friday, February 6, 2015 12:35:00

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PETER LLOYD: The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has signed up its 10,000th participant across seven trial sites, and it says its operating on time and on budget.

But it's not all good news.

The agency isn't responsible for disability housing, and many participants say they can't live a normal life while they're not living in a normal home.

The NDIA's chairman says work is being done to make more housing available, but participants and carers say they are sick of waiting. 

Margaret Paul reports. 

MARGARET PAUL: Adam Lee has suffered from schizophrenia since he was a teenager. Now 34, he's recently signed up with the National Disability Insurance Agency. He says it's changed his life.

ADAM LEE: I'm mixing with other people, learning new skills, being outdoors which is quite good.

MARGARET PAUL: The NDIA has helped Adam Lee find work and helped pay for it to happen. 

ADAM LEE: I do garden and maintenance, and landscape gardening, mowing lawns, whipper-snippering, edges, planting plants, there's a ride-on lawnmower there, spreading mulch, laying turf.

We do a lot of garden and maintenance.

My medication has gone down and I've come out of my shell a lot of my illness.

MARGARET PAUL: This week, the NDIA signed up its 10,000th participant, over seven trial sites across the country.

Its chairman, Bruce Bonyhady, says 95 per cent of those people are satisfied.

BRUCE BONYHADY: It's the difference it's making to people's lives, that's the great, the great benefit of the scheme.

MARGARET PAUL: But not everyone is happy. 

Krystyna Croft's 30-year-old son Robert has a severe intellectual disability. 

KRYSTYNA CROFT: There's two things that somebody like Robert should get out of this scheme. One is appropriate accommodation and the other is having something worthwhile to do each day, and in 18 months I haven't been able to achieve either of those for him.

MARGARET PAUL: Robert Croft is boarding with a family in Ocean Grove, near Geelong.

The NDIA pays for it, but Krystyna Croft says it's not a long-term solution for his independent living.

She wants to set up a share house for her son and other adults with disabilities but because a carer would need to stay the night, in Victoria that means fire regulations.

KRYSTYNA CROFT: Then I cannot rent a house because a landlord wouldn't like me to put a sprinkler system into it, neither could I afford to do that because they cost about $60,000.

MARGARET PAUL: The Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, says disability housing is a complex issue.

MITCH FIFIELD: Look, there's a lot of work taking place in relation to housing.

The NDIS won't seek to supplant or replace the state's current and ongoing role in relation to public housing and social housing, but what the NDIA can do is to make some strategic investments, to partner with other organisations.

MARGARET PAUL: Mitch Fifield says the NDIA will receive more money for accommodation. 

Its chairman Bruce Bonyhady acknowledges housing is a problem for some participants. 

What's the NDIA doing about that?

BRUCE BONYHADY: Look, we're working with governments on that and it's quite complex in terms of sorting this issue out because housing is not the primary responsibility of the agency but I'm very confident that with the Commonwealth and the states, we'll be coming out with a paper before too long which will identify options for a path forward.

MARGARET PAUL: For Krystyna Croft, it's great the NDIA is providing money, but the services she needs for her son just aren't there.

KRYSTYNA CROFT: It's great for people with physical disabilities, I've seen some wonderful outcomes, but for people with a severe intellectual disability, there's no understanding of their real needs. 

MARGARET PAUL: Have you got any hope that that will change?

KRYSTYNA CROFT: (Laughs) I'd have to hope that will change (laughs). On my dark days it's not very hopeful. It's an ongoing fight and frankly at my age I didn't really expect to have to do this.

MARGARET PAUL: The National Disability Insurance Agency is due to be rolled out nationally next year.

PETER LLOYD: Margaret Paul reporting.

from http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2015/s4175175.htm