Gaps in the understanding of homelessness by NDIS service providers are preventing people accessing the housing support they may be entitled to, a conference has heard.
That’s why a not-for-profit mental health, disability and aged care provider has produced a suite of resources aimed at increasing housing literacy for providers, and empowering participants.
Wellways developed the resources as part of its Way Home program, an initiative designed to find secure accomodation in either community housing or private rental for people with a psychosocial disability.
NDIS providers failing to address homelessness risk
Being homeless doesn’t just mean not having a roof over your head, Beth Fogerty, Wellways Regional Manager for Gippsland and Victorian House programs manager told a housing conference at Darwin on Wednesday.
It can also include things like couch surfing, or being shuffled from one home to another.
“What we are finding is that there is a real gap between NDIS services and being able to address homelessness for people who are at risk,” she told the National Housing Conference.
“Key questions around ‘do you have supportive housing, what are your housing needs, where do you live’ are often not asked.”
There is a line item in the NDIS payment system about homelessness and housing support, but Ms Fogerty says this is rarely included in plans.
It is also difficult to access NDIS support without a fixed address.
The Way Home project
Wellways has worked with 50 NDIS participants to get them a home around Victoria as part of the Way Home project, which also provided resources for service providers as well as individuals accessing services.
“What we really wanted to do was support NDIS providers – everyone from Local Area Coordinators to NDIS planners to workers on the ground – to understand and identify homelessness and at-risk tenants when people come into the system,” she said.
For individuals, the resources are designed to build capacity and understanding about tenancy skills and rights, as well as helping participants better utilise NDIS services in their package.
For NDIS providers, Wellways aimed to help them pick up warning signs that a person may be homeless or at risk of homelessness and provide guidance on how to respond.
A provider handbook, factsheets and information sessions address definitions of homelessness, what an NDIS provider can do to identify and respond to risks, and the importance of sustainable housing solutions.
The resources also highlight trigger points for homelessness and provide information about mainstream supports an NDIS participant can tap into.
Ms Fogerty said support providers often don’t know what is available, such as housing establishment or brokerage funds.
“Housing isn’t just about the support co-ordinator, it’s not just about the planner, it’s not just about the worker in the home. Everyone has a responsibility” Ms Fogerty said.
“Stable housing plays a vital role in creating a safe, secure and sustainable environment. It provides the opportunity for participants to achieve their goals and live the life they want to live.
“It’s about NDIS services looking at housing as not just an item in a plan, but also about mitigating risks as they arise.”
Since the resources have been available, Ms Fogerty says there’s been more detail in NDIS plans and greater take-up of the tenancy line item.
Wellway’s Factsheets and handbooks are available here.