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University of Sydney centres collaborate for disability research

NDIA research report examines options for independent living
A research collaboration to evaluate support and options available for people with disabilities identifies a shift from institutional to independent living.

Researchers at the Brain and Mind Centre have joined a Centre for Disability Studies (CDS) project to release a report commissioned by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). The report, Home and Living Options for People with Disabilities reviews the interventions and strategies that help people move from institutional care into more individualised home and living options and identifies those that best support the transition.

The study combined a review of academic literature from academic databases and journals, a review of the grey literature (policies, government reports, and study protocols) and an environmental scan to identify current or emerging interventions across Australia and internationally.

The report’s lead co-author, Executive Director of the CDS, Associate Professor Mary-Ann O'Donovan said the study assessed strategies that support moves away from institutional living spanned the disability system, including an evaluation of policy; organisational support; community and environmental programs; interpersonal support programs and individual training.

“There is evidence across the literature that when transition is done well, it can lead to improved well-being, independence and choice for individuals. The literature shows that people who live in the community experience improvements in their quality of life, health, participation and adaptive behaviour..”

“The review highlights how a number of strategies working together can support people to move from congregate to more independent and individual settings. These enablers exist at a policy, organisational, community, interpersonal and individual level and include individualised flexible funding arrangements, informal and formal supports, community outreach, and person-centred planning and training for staff.

"Importantly, there is a distinct move away from specialist housing to mainstream options with support. More research is needed to evaluate new models of independent housing for people with disabilities, focusing on the voices and unique experiences of people with disabilities in the journey to individual, independent, supported living of their choosing. "

Professor Adam Guastella, director of the Brain and Mind Centre's Child Neurodevelopment research stream emphasised that while the report provided a path forward to independent housing, it also highlighted many gaps in knowledge.

“There is a real lack of evidence of the effective supports across many different groups with diverse needs, such as children and families and older Australians with disabilities.

"It is very clear that Australia is in a unique position internationally to deliver innovative housing models due to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We are looking forward to supporting the NDIA and working with the represented communities to better meet their needs and choices.”

The collaboration with the CDS and NDIA is grateful to co-authors Dr Eleni Demetriou, Erin Whittle and Dr Zachariah Duke.

The Home and Living Options for People with Disabilities report, commissioned by the NDIS, was released by the CDS on the 8th of December, 2021.