Karen Fisher | Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales
Objective: The research measured the effectiveness of new approaches to long term disability housing support options in Australia. Its objective was to contribute evidence for the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in the largest state, New South Wales (NSW). The research was a partnership between the state government and the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), University of NSW. The research framework focused on whether people were supported to make informed accommodation support choices; and whether the individualised funding, planning and service approaches enabled disabled people, and their families and carers, to exercise control over their support. Method: The research built an evidence base about housing support through the collection of stage 1 data and the development of a research framework. It used mixed methods and a participatory research approach with disabled people to address the research questions, including a review of program data; surveys distributed to disabled people, family members and service provider managers; qualitative interviews and inclusive activities with disabled people, family members and service provider managers; focus groups with support workers; case studies; and observations. Qualitative activities with disabled people were quantified into a quality of life measure based on disability rights. Results: The research found that the intention of the housing support was to enable disabled people to live as independently as they chose, in their preferred housing arrangement, and with formal support that suited people’s preferences and life goals. Most support options achieved some positive outcomes for disabled people. Least change was evident in people’s interpersonal relationships and employment, and in some options, access to preferred housing was restricted. Living in independent housing was realised mainly where families had some capacity to assist or the support worker could help with the social housing application process. Policy implications: The findings of the research assist with clear examples of good practice in housing support. They also assist with articulating what leads to good outcomes for disabled people and their families. The research framework is a resource for organisations to review outcomes for disabled people and the effectiveness of their services. The findings have policy implications for support design, implementation and interagency collaboration informed by the lived experience of people using housing support. The implications relate to comparative information between options, decision making support, flexibility that is responsive to the person’s context and preferences, quality standards and integration with 33 mainstream opportunities. These implications are important for the sustainability of the NDIS, which attempts to move towards a universal rights approach to disability support. The paper will draw comparative implications for other countries.