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Dr CARLING-JENKINS (Western Metropolitan) — My question today is for the minister representing the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing, Ms Mikakos. Minister, the long-awaited new national disability insurance scheme (NDIS) specialist disability accommodation rule was recently introduced. While we are one step closer to seeing payments for much-needed specialist disability housing, the rule raises some concern. In particular there is the potential that it will undermine participant choice and control regarding housing — a fundamental right under the NDIS act and the convention. I note that people eligible for specialist accommodation represent people needing the highest levels of support. Under the new rule state governments will have the ability to list some disability housing as in kind. This would require the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to direct participants to select any available in-kind housing option before they choose another provider. Given in-kind housing is likely to be existing stock, many specialist disability accommodation options will presumably be outdated and no longer appropriate for people with high support needs. 

So I ask: Minister, is the government planning to reduce participant choice by listing any of their housing as in kind in the NDIS and, if so, what steps is the government taking to ensure that all in-kind housing for people with disability under the NDIS is adequate and appropriate to their needs?

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I thank Dr Carling-Jenkins for her question, and I acknowledge her continued interest in and commitment to getting the best outcomes for people with disabilities. As I have said in this house on previous occasions, I think the national disability insurance scheme is a tremendous reform for this nation, and it is important of course that we continue — and we will continue as a state government — to press the commonwealth government to ensure that it does deliver on the spirit and the intention of what had originally been envisaged, and that is to give Victorians with a disability a fair go in life and to give them choices about a range of things, including choice in housing.

Choice in housing is fundamental to a person's wellbeing and their sense of belonging, and people with a disability deserve to have this choice. My understanding is that the bilateral agreement that Victoria has with the commonwealth counts in-kind arrangements that fund specialist housing that it owns and/or runs towards its contribution to the NDIS. During the NDIS transition only, the NDIA have planned management rules that have been agreed nationally that require them to utilise in-kind arrangements first in participants' plans. However, Victoria has an agreement with the NDIA to ensure that this does not impact on choice and control of accommodation. As the NDIS expands of course so too will models of supported accommodation that will move away from the traditional group homes of the past and towards more independent and innovative living options, so participants who choose to select non-government housing or indeed newer models of housing will be supported to do so where alternative accommodation is available. No participant who would prefer a non-government place will be required to accept or stay in a government place if there is a suitable place available in the non-government sector.

As the member did refer to in the preamble to her question, of course people who are seeking this type of accommodation option are people typically with the most complex of needs. I know that the minister responsible has also been addressing this and working very closely with both the department, through the Department of Health and Human Services, and the NDIA on the establishment of a complex needs working group to ensure that the particular needs of this group of people with disabilities are addressed.

I just add that I know that Minister Foley is a minister who is very passionate to see the best possible outcomes for people with disabilities and that the vision, as I said, of the NDIS is in fact delivered to Victorians with disabilities. I am sure he would be very happy to sit down with the member and have a discussion with her, in particular in relation to her concerns about this specific issue.

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