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Everyone “worthy” of high-quality housing

Some people with disability do not feel “worthy” of excellent accommodation. That has got to change, Wendy Brooks told the Disability Royal Commission in Brisbane.

More housing options that allow families and couples to stay together are needed for people with disability, the Disability Royal Commission heard this month.

InLife chair Wendy Brooks addressed the commission in her role as a founding board director of Summer Housing - which works to get young people out of nursing homes.

Wendy emphasised the importance of providing a range of housing choices for people with disability depending on their individual circumstances.

And making sure those people and their families were aware that they had options, away from historic “group home” models.

“When people live in group homes and have been in group homes, it’s a form of institutionalisation,” Wendy said.

“And it really affects people, and it affects their aspiration and their willingness to risk trying something different.”

Summer Housing pioneered a 10+1 model of Supported Disability Accommodation (SDA) in Australia to give people with disability the opportunity to live independent lives.

This model provides 10 apartments sprinkled among a large residential development. The +1 consists of another apartment, reserved for the disability support provider, available on call to assist 24/7.

Wendy said for some people it was a new experience moving into customised brand new apartments.

“You know we have been giving a message to - in our community that people with disabilities are defective. They are not worthy,” she said.

“So when we provide excellent accommodation that’s customised, people don’t really feel that they should be aspiring to that.

“Then if they have to spend a year appealing through the SDA process… of course, it’s a huge barrier as well.”

Wendy also said people needed to be given options that matched their individual circumstances including family situations.

She gave the example of a 34-year-old man with quadriplegia who required ventilation and was forced to spend three years in hospital before discovering Summer Housing.

“His partner was unable to manage that at home, and they couldn’t find anywhere he could go,” Wendy said.

At that stage, shared living with his partner was not possible through the man’s Specialist Disability Accommodation package.

“So they applied and he moved into a Summer Housing accommodation, but he couldn’t go with his wife.

“And then, only recently, the SDA enabled shared living. And so his wife is now living with him, and they have got a shared villa.

“One of our new innovations… we are trying some townhouses as well, some villas, where you could have shared accommodation.”

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