A joint message from Di Winkler (Summer Foundation CEO and Founder) and Simon McKeon AO (Summer Housing Chair)
Young people with disability living in nursing homes are one of the most marginalised and isolated groups of people in our society. More than half of them (53%) receive a visit from a friend less than once a year. They generally lead impoverished lives, characterised by loneliness and boredom.
These problems affect more than 6,200 people under the age of 65 who are stuck in nursing homes. Another 200 people under 50 are admitted to nursing homes each year, where they live with people in their 80’s.
Di Winkler is an occupational therapist who has worked with people with severe brain injury for the past 20 years. Working as a therapist, Di became frustrated by the lack of appropriate housing options for people with disability. She often saw young people being discharged from hospital or rehabilitation settings to nursing homes.
Di started a PhD in 2005 to change policy and practice around the issue of young people living in nursing homes. She heard many family’s stories about their gruelling experiences with nursing homes, and decided that research alone was not going to be enough to resolve the issue. In 2006, Di set up the Summer Foundation.
The early work of the Summer Foundation focused on understanding the experience of young people forced to live in nursing homes and growing a body of evidence to support the need for systemic change.
The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme brought about new opportunities to address the issue of young people living in nursing homes. The NDIS provides the critical funding that young people with disability need to live in the community, however the lack of housing means that few people will be able to move because there is no place for them to go. The Summer Foundation therefore made a strategic decision to focus on increasing the range and scale of appropriate, accessible housing.
The Summer Foundation launched its first housing demonstration project in 2013 in collaboration with the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and Common Equity Housing Limited. Located in Abbotsford, Victoria, the project consisted of six fully accessible, one-bedroom apartments peppered throughout a 59-unit mixed private and social housing development.
The success of this project led to the development of the Hunter housing demonstration project, which was launched in July 2016 in the Hunter region of New South Wales. The Hunter project consists of ten apartments in a 110 unit private development in the centre of a bustling community. The apartments vary in size to account for people’s preferences to live with others, or to live alone.
Now, the introduction of the NDIS Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) payments enables replication and scale of innovative housing projects. The Summer Foundation believes that this work is best done through a dedicated organisation which focuses on the bricks and mortar of housing projects.
Summer Housing has been established as a not-for-profit sister organisation to the Summer Foundation which will build on the proven success of the Abbotsford and Hunter housing projects. Summer Housing will replicate and scale these initial housing projects. It will be separate to the Summer Foundation, with its own independent Board, however the two organisations will continue to collaborate in areas of common interest.
Our housing models are challenging thinking about housing for people with disability. The apartments, while being functional and accessible, look and feel as much as possible like neighbouring apartments, and aim to increase a person’s independence and quality of life. We aim to create homes that allow people to actively participate in the community, and to build and maintain relationships with family and friends.
Chancellor of Monash University Simon McKeon AO has been appointed as the Chair of the Board of Summer Housing.
“Having been a long time supporter of the Summer Foundation and its work to change policy and practice around young people in nursing homes, I am delighted to be part of this next chapter that will deliver quality housing options for people with disability across Australia,” Simon said.
“We have a strong and committed Board, who like me are passionate about many social issues. The issue of younger people in residential aged care is a problem that we all feel can and must be fixed.”