On 17 February 2023, Summer Housing Board Director Wendy Brooks BMus, LLB, represented the organisation at a public hearing for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
Summer Housing welcomed the invitation to appear at the public hearing, which examined the policies and practices of disability service providers, with a focus on the extent to which people with disability have choice and control in the services they receive.
As Summer Housing was established with the concept of choice and control for people with disability at the centre of its operating model and values, this was a welcome opportunity to provide information about the organisation’s vision and innovative specialist disability housing model.
Wendy spoke passionately about Summer Housing’s vision that all people with disability and complex care needs can live in high quality housing that enables them to live as independently as possible, enhancing their health, wellbeing, and participation in the community.
Wendy outlined how Summer Housing’s 10+1 model allowed people with disability the choice to live in their own apartment, to choose their one-on-one support workers, and have access to 24/7 support when needed.
“They are not alone, they are not isolated, they can call on the 24/7 support worker. And that’s a very important part of our model”.
The barriers to people with disability having choice and control in relation to their housing was also discussed.
Wendy called on the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to work more closely with service providers and participants to both improve the capacity of NDIS participants to make informed choices about housing; and support the transition of NDIS participants into Specialist Disability Accommodation if they choose to make that move.
“If the NDIA provided a coordinator, one person who could work with the 10 tenants and us, to ensure that they were properly placed in their apartments, that they had the modifications done that they needed, that they got the supports that they required, that coordination could really fast-track and improve the outcomes for our tenants….We could really benefit from a far more collaborative approach by the NDIA”.
A focus of the hearing was on the need for the NDIA to improve its approvals and appeals process. Wendy shared Summer Housing’s experience that many prospective tenants receive an incompatible SDA outcome and chose to withdraw from the process rather than going through the lengthy, complex and stressful appeals process with the NDIA.
“We know that if that appeal process occurs, that almost all the appeals are settled. So why put that barrier there in the first place for people who are disadvantaged – extremely disadvantaged, who are looking to improve their living conditions?” she said.
Wendy also spoke about the importance of the need for a national building code that provides universal access.
“As someone who’s used a wheelchair and mobility aids for many years and continued to work fulltime right through that period too, I only felt like I had a disability when I faced the built environment/obstacles,” she said.
“Until we have a building code that provides for universal access we are always going to face discrimination for people living with disabilities and we are a poorer society for that too.
“Because if people can’t get out and about, how can you see people with disabilities, how can they function and be included in society, how can they be employed and work – it’s a huge battle.
“And so these little experiments that we are doing with Summer Housing, our small contribution, it’s just a tiny part of saying to society we have to wake up. We have to say – this society has to stop segregating people living with disabilities and include them and make for a richer society for us all.”
The full transcript of Wendy Brooks’ appearance at the Royal Commission is available here.
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Elyse Gatt | Senior Associate | MICHELSON ALEXANDER
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