Margaret Ward has a lot of practical, heartfelt and straight-talking wisdom to share.
Originally a practicing architect in housing, she became a parent of a person with disability and as a consequence, has had a varied career as a policy writer, service provider and advocate in the areas of social inclusion, housing and disability.
She was a founding family member of Homes West Association which has supported user-direction for over twenty years. She is currently Research Fellow at the School of Human Services and Social Work, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. She is currently convenor of the Australian Network for Universal Housing Design.
Dr Ward received the Public Service Medal for her work on housing for people with disability within the Queensland Government.
So much has been written and documented about the nature of home. Home is where it all starts and where it all ends. It is where we rest and renew. It is essential for our wellbeing and should be a place where we feel rock-solid safe. Home is as various as the people we know. And so it should be for people with disability. Everyone needs a home. This has made up a great part of my life and work for the last 30 years. My daughter, Mena, was able to live, love and die in her own home. But this was not something that the system made easy for her. This was why vision was so important – we just knew what was needed and we weren’t deterred.
When I was asked to be a guest speaker on this webinar, my initial response was “Well, it is grim and I’ll need to say this.” But I agreed because I also feel there are things that could be done. It’s not right, yes. It doesn’t replace systemic change. But, for those of us looking for some things we might be able to do, to keep us sustained and hopeful, I wanted to contribute some of my experience.
The NDIS offers you greater choice and control over where, how and with whom you live. But what can you do to find a home of your own?
Where to start
The first place to start is to see how other people find a place and make it their home. Despite the barriers, it is still important to name YOUR home to the detail. What will YOUR home look like and be? I’ve seen the difference this can make, in taking advantage of an opportunity that becomes available. I’ve seen families who have done this visioning work well, able to then mould and safeguard opportunities. Others who didn’t have ended up, years later, feeling stuck in vacancy-managed group living unable to undo the threads for a more individualised arrangement.
Next, is perhaps a mindset that is helpful. To get started with something bearing in mind that your first place is not likely to be your last—people change their housing as their needs and priorities change. However, better choices are made when you have a vision and a plan. Actually we need to be planning as early as possible now.
You can try different ways of living to think about what support you might need, who might be a good house-mate and what sort of place suits you.
Why not think about house-sitting for a friend, go on a holiday without the family, rent a serviced apartment for a few weeks.
The NDIS is another opportunity to help get you closer. Let’s talk about what might be possible to do with resources through the scheme.
Five ideas to action right now
I argue that the National Disability Insurance Agency could take five practical steps to address the housing needs of most people with disability.
- It could advocate for a sustainable social housing system
- It could support the re-establishment of the National Rental Affordability Scheme and its commitment to equitable physical and financial access in future funding rounds
- It could expand home purchase assistance, especially shared-equity opportunities
- The NDIA has the opportunity to assure timely access and quality of home modification service
- The NDIA can influence the supply of accessible housing by calling for regulation of minimum access features in mainstream housing in the National Construction Code
On this webinar I will explore these and other ideas to help you decide where, how and with whom you want to live. It will then consider the various housing options that are currently available and what are some of the pitfalls.