Helping homeless people with a disability to access the NDIS
Hutt St Centre is calling on the Federal Government to implement the recommendations of its Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS, including that it develops a strategy to better engage with people with a disability who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness, along with the providers of specialist homelessness services which support them.
The number of homeless people living with a disability in South Australia is rising, and the growing need for support and access to NDIS services prompted Hutt St Centre to present a submission to the Joint Standing Committee late last year.
In particular, the Hutt St Centre submission, which was developed by its NDIS Project Officer Nadia Di Girolamo, highlighted that since the full roll-out of the NDIS in South Australia in 2018, there has been an increasing and emerging need for providers of specialist homelessness services to help clients learn how to access the NDIS and how to navigate its related processes.
Hutt St Centre estimated that up to 25 per cent of its clients experiencing homelessness were also living with a disability. Chief Executive Chris Burns said people living with a disability who were at risk of or experiencing homelessness were among the most vulnerable in our community and they often needed extra help to enable them to access critical support such as the NDIS.
“We’d like to see the NDIA introduce liaison officers to work with providers of specialist homelessness services, such as Hutt St Centre, to improve access to the NDIS for people with a disability who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. This view was supported by the Select Committee and included in its recommendations,” Mr Burns said.
“We’d also like to see the NDIA start working on a strategy to better engage with people living with a disability who are experiencing homelessness, as you cannot underestimate the amount of support they need, and the difference that individual and focussed case management can make to the quality of their lives.”
Hutt St Centre has employed a Project Officer to help connect people to services, along with an occupational therapist to provide assessments as part of a federal-funded two-year program running until June 2022. It is also working with clients to understand what educational programs could be offered to enable them to learn how to access NDIS services independently.
In the past 12 months, Hutt St Centre has more than doubled the number of clients it has helped to access the NDIS.
Ms Di Girolamo said there was a growing need for the NDIA to create an engagement strategy to work with people at risk of or experiencing homelessness and providers of specialist homelessness services, such as Hutt St Centre; similar to strategies already developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTIQ communities.
“There’s a big gap for people experiencing homelessness and their ability to access NDIS services – people are transient, they haven’t always connected with a GP or been assessed and aren’t getting connected to the NDIS,” Ms Di Girolamo said.
“They continue to fall through the cracks and they have some of the most complex needs, and that’s why they often become homeless.
“Our project is focussed on listening to the voices of those with lived experience and co-design, we’re identifying where these gaps are and how we can fix them, and there’s a need to address that at a more systemic level.”
Through the course of the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS hearings, other organisations and witnesses raised a number of challenges for people with disabilities who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness and called for measures to help them access appropriate accommodation and disability supports.
The Joint Standing Committee’s NDIS findings and recommendations relating to the homeless sector can be accessed here.