Thanks for joining us in our Embark blogpost series, where we address some of our tips for supporting people with accessing the NDIS. Embark provides support to people in the Sydney Metropolitan area that are living with a mental health condition and experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness, to access the NDIS. [You can make a referral to our free service via: www.icla.org.au/embark/]
You can also get in touch for support – via Embark Upskill, we facilitate free workshops across NSW, open to anyone who wants to improve their confidence and understanding of the NDIS in order to support people with a mental illness to access the NDIS and obtain the supports they need. [Make an enquiry via: www.icla.org.au/embark/upskill]
NDIS Access: Supporting people that are homeless or at risk of homelessness
People that are experiencing homelessness (or at risk of homelessness) face a unique set of barriers to accessing the NDIS, and it can be tricky to support someone in this situation with navigating the process.
At Embark, however, we’ve been working in this space for some time, and know that it is possible for people experiencing homelessness to get an NDIS plan, especially with the right understanding and supports along the way.
In today’s first video, some of our old team-mates get us started on the topic of homelessness, psychosocial disability, and the NDIS – take a listen:
Now that we’ve covered those basics, let’s get into some of our advice.
Tips: Supporting Someone that is Experiencing Homelessness to apply for the NDIS
We at Embark have a lot of experience supporting people that are experiencing homelessness (or at risk of homelessness) with accessing the NDIS. We’ve collected a lot of tips and tricks over the years, and so here’s some we prepared for you earlier:
Overcoming barriers to supporting someone
Now that we’ve explored some of our basic tips, let’s get into overcoming the barriers of supporting someone in these circumstances.
There can be quite a few barriers to supporting someone that is experiencing homelessness with the NDIS process, so we’ve listed some of these below, and how we’d address them:
- Timing: Before you begin supporting someone currently experiencing homelessness with the NDIS, consider whether this is the right time for them. Sometimes holding off until there is a little more stability in someone’s life and some regular (though perhaps short-term) supports in place, can make the application process more efficient, and get a better outcome
- Deficit-focus of NDIS vs. trauma-informed approach: The NDIS journey can be difficult and deficit-focused. No one really likes talking about what impairments they face, or what they are unable to do. It can be delicate and difficult to discuss the impairments and impacts of one’s physical and mental health, and re-telling one’s story can be retraumatising and naturally a negative experience
- Always take a trauma informed approach: Always engage in safe environments, with plenty of breaks and monitoring how the person is going – it is important the person feels safe to share their experience, or stop when they need to. If they don’t feel comfortable sharing their experiences, you could ask if there is someone else they would be comfortable with you speaking to
- Make it relaxed and use your skills to fill-in the blanks: chat about the person’s day-to-day life, ”what does a day in the life of Joe Bloggs look like? What are the highlights and what are challenges?” Then, use your own knowledge and skills to express their answers in the language required by the NDIS
- Reassure the participant: While going through the application process can be difficult, many people report that the supports of the NDIS, once you have them, are worth the effort. Also, everyone is different, and everyone needs a little help from time to time – we all have different skill sets to drawn from and we all need help with things that we aren’t as skilled in
- Poor historians: Many people, in particular with complex histories of mental health, won’t remember all the details of their life, the treatments they’ve accessed over time, etc. So, remember to take regular notes when engaging with the person you are supporting, and piece together the necessary information (e.g. treatments accessed, other people you can request information from, etc.), and get an understanding over time of their strengths, limitations, and support needs.
- Not connected to supports: People who experience homelessness often don’t have a regular medical professional that they are familiar with. You may need to support them with connecting with a GP, and/or psychologist or psychiatrist, over a couple of appointments, in order to get support with signing off on their application
- Support the person to understand that this is a necessary step in getting the NDIS and those further supports in place
- Support the professional by pre-filling the evidence documents with as much information as possible.
- Itinerant, difficult to contact: People that are homeless understandably will have other priorities in their lives, may need to move around, or might not have a regular way of contacting them. It’s important to be patient, develop a good rapport so that you’re someone they want to talk to, get them to save your number in their phone (if they have one), be opportunistic – getting their signature on documents when you can, and, take your time, piecing together what you can in the background.
- Lack of diagnoses, evidence or reports: Remember, it is likely that this person has been seen by someone, somewhere along their travels, e.g. a hospital, mental health service or potentially a drop-in centre. Listen to their story, find out where they have been, if they have stayed in a particular place for an extended time, what services they have connected with and if and where they may have been treated over the years. Have they been hospitalised? Is there a doctor they have seen several times during their life? Maybe there is a trusted friend, family member or support person who can provide further information, as well.
There you have it, some of our tips, tricks and strategies for overcoming barriers to supporting someone that is experiencing homelessness with accessing the NDIS. We’re not saying it will be an easy journey, but with your support and persistence, one more person might get much needed long-term supports in place!
Check out these further resources, below – and let us know any we can add here.
- Explore our Embark resources, available via – https://icla.org.au/embark/access/
- NDIS – home and living supports – https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/home-and-living/
- NDIS – what housing supports are included – https://www.ndis.gov.au/participants/home-and-living/what-housing-supports-are-included
- Careabout – homelessness and people with a disability – https://www.careabout.com.au/ndis/homeless
- Wesley – support services – https://www.wesleymission.org.au/find-a-service/housing-and-accommodation/support-services/
- Mission Australia – homelessness and social housing – https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/what-we-do/homelessness-social-housing
- Red Cross – homelessness services – https://www.redcross.org.au/services/homelessness-services/
Thanks again for joining us. Please be in touch with any questions or suggested topics for future content via firstname.lastname@example.org.
ICLA’s Embark program is funded by the NSW Ministry of Health to support people with a mental health condition who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness to access the NDIS.