Understanding Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA)

Understanding Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA)

The journey to receiving Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) funding is complex, although there are some things you can do to give yourself the best chance of success. We've put together a guide to help you navigate SDA.

Key points:

  1. SDA funding is only provided to a small proportion of NDIS participants who have extreme functional impairment or very high support needs and meet specific eligibility criteria.

  2. SDA refers to the physical homes in which support services are delivered, not the support services themselves. Supports are assessed and funded separately by the NDIS and known as Supported Independent Living (SIL) costs. 

  3. Eligibility for SDA funding is considered at the time of plan approval and plan review. If approved, it will appear under Capital Supports in your NDIS Plan.

What is Specialist Disability Accommodation?

Specialist disability accommodation (SDA) is housing that has been specially designed or modified to support NDIS participants with very high support needs or extreme funcion impairment. 

For example, if you have an acquired brain injury, intellectual disability or complex mobility issue, SDA will ensure you have a house that suits you needs so you can receive the support you require.

SDA gives people with disability a choice about their housing environment, ensuring they receive the right housing design for them, including lighting, access spaces and amenities. SDA homes may range from a purpose-built apartment in a mixed development, through to a modified free-standing house.

How can I access SDA funding?

SDA funding is only provided to a small proportion (around 6 percent) of NDIS participants who have extreme functional impairment or very high support needs and meet specific eligibility criteria.

Having an extreme functional impairment means you have a lot of trouble doing (or can’t do) daily tasks on your own. You might have a very hard time

  • getting in and out of bed 

  • getting dressed 

  • moving around 

  • preparing meals 

  • accessing the community 

It also means you need lots of support from someone to do these things. This is on top of any assistive technology or other home modifications.

You might also be eligible for SDA if you have 'very high support needs'. This could mean that

  • Your ‘informal supports’ (people who help you but don’t get paid for it, like family or friends) can’t meet your personal care needs

  • You have spent a long time living in a group home or residential aged care 

  • It could be risky for family or friends to help out. Or, it might be dangerous for you. 

The NDIA looks at lots of different information to decide if you have these kinds of support needs. This includes:

  • Any information from your doctor or allied health professionals

  • Any details from your current providers

  • Your daily support requirements

The NDIA will also consider whether SDA will give you long-term benefits for: 

  • pursuing your goals 

  • improving your functional capacity (help you do more things with less support)

  • reducing your need for person-to-person supports

  • creating better connections with your family, community, health services, education, and employment.

Eligibility for SDA funding is considered at the time of plan approval and plan review. Your  first NDIS plan may include funding for Support Coordination and Therapeutic Supports to allow assessments and exploration of suitable housing alternatives to be made. 

There are several assessments required to determine of SDA funding should be allocated, such as Activities of Daily Living (ADL) assessment, General Living Skills or Functional Capacity assessment, Balance and Mobility assessment (as part of the Functional Capacity Assessment).

The NDIS will use this information to decide whether SDA payments are a reasonable and necessary support for you. SDA funding may then be included at your next plan review.

If the NDIS decides you are eligible for SDA payments, they will appear as a ‘capital support’ in your NDIS Plan. There will be information explaining the dwelling type, the SDA housing design category and the location funded in your Plan.

To receive funding for SDA, you not only need to show the NDIS that you require high-level support, you must emphasise that there are no other suitable options available and be prepared to back this up in your planning meeting. 

Make it clear to the Local Area Coordinator (LAC) that your main goal is to live independently, and you require SDA funding to do so.  

What does SDA funding cover?

SDA will provide funding towards the cost of the physical environment for eligible NDIS participants to live and receive their daily supports. 

While features will differ depending on the building and SDA provider, some examples of what can make an SDA home different are:

  • Accessible bench tops for cooking

  • Wheelchair accessible bathrooms and amenities

  • Hoists and other assistive equipment

  • Smart technology such as touch and voice activation of lights, window coverings etc.

I have SDA funding in my plan - now what?

If SDA payments are included in your NDIS Plan, you can think about: 

  • Looking for a vacancy in SDA that is already built 

  • Finding out whether SDA payments could provide you with a pathway to home ownership 

  • Joining a cooperative who are building SDA, to ensure you have secure long term housing 

  • Talking to registered SDA providers and developers about whether they can work with you to build appropriate housing

TIP: “Make sure you have Support Coordination funding in your plan. A Support Coordinator is a great resource to have guiding you during your search for your home” - Plan Partners

You Support Coordinator can help you with all aspects of searching for and considering vacancies, making applications, negotiating a tenancy and transitioning into an SDA option. 

You can also use our Provider Finder to search for SDA providers near you.

How do SDA payments work?

Once you have access to SDA, when you have signed a tenancy or occupancy agreement and moved into your SDA property, the NDIS will make SDA payments directly to the SDA provider.

The payment is for the actual property (‘bricks and mortar’), and is paid in addition to other supports in your NDIS Plan. 

For more information on SDA pricing and payments, visit the NDIS website.

What to look for in SDA

There are many things to consider when choosing an SDA provider. Here are some useful tips from The Summer Foundation:

1. The owner of the property must be a registered provider with the NDIS. 

2. The owner of the property must be effectively managing any potential or actual conflicts of interest. Your providers must act in a way that is best for you, and give you the information you need to make good decisions about your housing

3. The property must meet relevant design requirements and be enrolled as SDA with the NDIS. 

4. The property you move into must match the dwelling type, design features and location funded in your NDIS Plan. 

Your SDA provider will work with you to write a contract about your housing and the type, quality and price of housing supports they will provide, including ‘terms and conditions’ (rules that you agree on). This is called a tenancy or occupancy agreement

How much rent will I pay in SDA?

Eligible participants requiring access to SDA will have funding included in their plan to cover any disability-related housing costs that are above the ordinary costs of housing and living, such as groceries, bills and rent. 

You will still need to pay a ‘reasonable rent contribution’ which is

  • 25 percent of your Disability Support Pension, plus 

  • 100 percent of your Commonwealth Rent Assistance

What's the difference between SDA and SIL?

SDA refers to the physical homes in which support services are delivered, not the support services themselves. These supports are assessed and funded separately by the NDIS and known as Supported Independent Living (SIL) costs. 

Where SDA funding is usually approved for participants with extreme impairment or high support need, SIL funding is approved for participants seeking to live as independently as possible.

You may be approved for both SDA and SIL, however they will be funded separately in your NDIS Plan. If you have both SDA and SIL funding in your plan, you can choose different providers for each. This can give you more choice and control and make sure you get the support that is best for you. 


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