Pulse Session 2021: Improving housing for people experiencing disability

Our last Pulse Meeting held on 3 November was presented by Dr Donna Turner a Senior Project Officer at Shelter WA. Donna is managing an Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) funded Project, Building Tenancy Skills.


The project is a statewide homelessness prevention project in a partnership between Shelter WA and People with Disabilities WA. Funding is provided by an Information, Linkages and Capacity Building Grant through the Department of Social Services.


Working with a team of people with disability who have experience of renting, the project will firstly develop resources for people with disability who would like additional skills and resources to manage their rental accommodation and secondly, will assist organisations to build their capacity to support tenants with disability.


At the outset Donna acknowledged the “experience of people who have disability and who have faced challenges in their housing”. “There will be some people in this room who have that experience,” she said. “This project will be learning from people with lived experience, and I would like to acknowledge that.”


Renting Experience


The experience of people with disability in renting is often poorer in comparison to people without disability. This often plays out during rental inspection where a property might have been damaged from use of mobility aids, or has declined during a period while the person was in hospital. People with disability are less likely to be on a decent income and might not be able to afford to pay others to undertake garden and property maintenance if these are things they are not physically able to undertake themselves.


People who experience psychosocial disability might not feel safe letting people come into the property to conduct maintenance. Some people have difficulties parting with possessions, referred to as hoarding. These challenges play out in the most important space - where you live. You have somebody coming in to your home judging the way you are maintaining that property. That kind of interaction between the person with a disability and whoever has this power over them can then become a problematic space.


“We are hoping that this project can explicitly address the pointy part of the interaction,” Donna said.


View the slide presentation.

Where are People Renting?


Estimates show most people with a disability who are renting do so in the private sector (approximately 90-95,000). Another 5,500 people with a disability are living in public housing across both state housing and facilities run by Community Housing Providers and an estimated 2,500-2,800 people are living in Specialist Disability Accommodation.


Project Deliverables


“The focus is not so much about the built environment,” Donna said. “This is about the experience of renting. This is about the experience of maintaining your tenancy when you are renting knowing there are those additional challenges when you are experiencing different types of disability.


“People with disability have said that they would like to feel more confident as tenants, they would like to self-advocate and to understand their rights and responsibilities as tenants.”

Resources and workshops will be developed by people with lived experience and will then be made available to individuals and service providers. The workshops for people with disability will be provided across the state to provide the information and skills that tenants with disability have identified will be useful to them in maintaining their tenancy. Advice, support, and resources to assist service providers to build their capacity to assist tenants with disability will also be identified and developed.


Co-design Project Team Approach


A co-design project team, comprised of people with diverse experience of disability who have rented will identify and prioritise the most common and most challenging problems faced by renters with disability. In response, they will build ideas for resources that can be prototyped and tested with technical support. A facilitator and an evaluator/researcher will support the team.


Advisory Group


An Advisory Group is forming comprised of peak bodies, individuals, and service providers with experience across the disability, consumer, mental health, housing, rental, consumer protection, financial counselling, and advocacy. The Group, through collaboration, will examine what’s already in place, mapping services which has already had success in this space through innovation, identify opportunities for training staff and the best platforms for informational sharing.

“By doing this we are not reinventing the wheel,” Donna said. We are encouraging the sharing of successes in other spaces.”


Good Ideas


In the latter part of her presentation, Donna took the time to show a range of great ideas already taking emerging to encourage supportive decision making. Watch her presentation to see examples of Easy Read tenancy documents, videos and animations being used right now.


Watch the video presentation.

For more information including expressions of interest from people with disability living in rented accommodation and other paid roles within the project click here. You can contact Donna Turner on (08) 9325 6660 or donna@shelterwa.org.au.


Funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

Visit www.dss.gov.au for more information.