In May, UpSkill Lead, Linda Hughes wrote a blog about Individualised Living Options (ILO) and what the new Operational Guidelines mean for support coordinators. Since that time, UpSkill hosted a lunchtime learning session with their Community of Practice members about the guidelines and suffice to say, everyone had a lot of questions. One of the recurring themes was about safeguards.
In this month’s blog, Linda shares insights into why safeguards for people entering into an ILO arrangement are so important.
Individualised living offers an opportunity for a person with disability to live with others who may not have a disability. Though many people with disability need support to live independently, house-sharers or hosts can provide some assistance, mentoring and companionship to the person with disability that they live with. With individualised living options, the home becomes shared, with shared roles and responsibilities. Each living arrangement is personally tailored with an emphasis on friendships and sharing lives as well as mutual benefit to all involved.
While each individualised living arrangement is unique, there may be situations where house sharers or hosts are provided with a financial ‘benefit’. This might be reduced or free rent, or a financial payment as reimbursement for the support they provide to the person with disability. This reimbursement is usually not a wage or an hourly rate. Payments or benefits need to be fair, without being an incentive purely for financial gain. These payments or benefits can be included in a person’s ILO package in their NDIS plan.
For many though this raises questions of safety and security for people with disability living in ILO arrangements. The NDIA have addressed concerns about safety and security here and in more detail about host arrangements here.
An important part of exploring and designing ILO, are the strategies that will address any vulnerabilities faced by the person with disability.
ILO providers who support host arrangements will need to be registered providers and comply with the NDIS Commission’s practice standards. All ILO providers need to abide by the NDIS Commission’s Code of Conduct. ILO providers must ensure that housesharers and hosts are properly vetted – these processes should include criminal records checks (police checks) and other formal checks, references and interviews. ILO providers are also responsible for ongoing monitoring of the arrangement. Regular check-ins with the participant and their house sharer/s or host to ensure the arrangement continues to meet the participant needs, that everyone is being adequately supported and any risks are managed quickly and appropriately.
While regulatory frameworks are important, we also know these are not the only way people with disability can be safeguarded. The vulnerability people with disability can experience often arises from social isolation and closed systems. In their paper on Building Capacity and Reducing Vulnerability in Closed Systems, the NDIS Independent Advisory Council (IAC) describes closed systems as:
“Closed systems congregate people with disability together and segregate them from the community and in so doing reinforce group practices that prevent opportunities to address the physical, emotional, social and skill development needs, isolate participants and do not enable or facilitate spontaneous exchange with people in the community.”
People with disability are safer when they are socially included, connected to their community, have people looking out for them or catching up with them daily. Family and friends, circles of support and microboards all enhance a person’s safety. Making decisions or being supported to make decisions about their own life and being able to speak up for themselves, again enhances personal safeguards.
ILO can be the fertile ground for a person with disability to build their personal safeguards through increased social connectedness, building of strong relationships and control over their living arrangements. While it is important to alway be vigilant in the safeguarding of people with disability, it is possible that ILOs might offer better opportunities for developing personal safeguards, than the traditional approaches to disability support.