NDS seeks clarification on NGO operation of government group homes
NDS met with the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) to discuss the process for transferring ownership and/or management of NSW Government-owned properties which providers occupy (under lease and other arrangements) to deliver disability services.
At the meeting, NDS raised several key questions that we have received from members. Key points from that discussion include:
- The process for FaCS houses occupied by providers under Deeds of License from the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) remains as advised. As reported by NDS, providers should still seek to nominate either a third party or themselves as a Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) provider.
- The process for Land & Housing Corporation proprieties occupied by providers (principally under leases from Housing NSW) will follow the same conversion process as those held under Deed of License but at a later point in time (definitely before June 2018).
- Houses in which there is some form of 'shared equity' (i.e. both the provider and the state government have an interest identified in or attached to the title deeds) will be dealt with on a on a case-by-case basis (also likely before June 2018).
- Providers are not compelled to report their SDA arrangements by 8 August (as advised in correspondence from ADHC); there will be no adverse consequences directly related to such a failure. However, it should be noted that failure to nominate an SDA provider slows the process whereby these properties can potentially be registered for SDA (see below). FaCS is happy to discuss with providers any concerns they have about nominating an SDA provider, including nominating themselves.
- Providers should be aware that failing to finalise arrangements for properties they are operating under lease and/or to advise FaCS that they require assistance to identify a potential SDA provider carries the following risks for Supported Independent Living (SIL) providers:
- Participants will transfer into the Scheme without the ability to claim for the SDA entitlement they may have in their plan;
- Providers risk the consequences of a lack of clarity around responsibility for maintenance and other matters which are the designated responsibility of the SDA provider; and
- It is unclear how rent and other payments which the owner (the NSW Government) will expect to receive from the property will be collected.
- Providers considering SDA registration have raised the concern that maintenance payments from FaCS to the SDA provider may be inadequate to cover the maintenance actually required for an individual property. In the discussion, FaCS indicated it understood that providers may require additional time to undertake their own due diligence in respect of the individual properties for which they are considering the SDA registration.
Where this involved a property inspection, and the inspection report differed substantially from the condition report FaCS commissioned, FaCS indicated a willingness to they to talk about the management of that divergence on a case-by-case basis. NDS welcomes the identification of a mechanism to address and manage this risk.
FaCS also stressed that Community Housing Providers (CHPs) now operate in a significantly less-regulated space than they have historically. This means they are not restricted to operating only in the locations where their head office is based. Providers can approach CHPs based anywhere in the state to be the SDA provider for the properties they occupy.
Providers have identified that the draft agreements developed by FaCS to govern the relationship between SIL and SDA providers have limitations. FaCS indicated that the state government's primary concern is with the terms of the lease and other agreements between the government and the SDA provider. This means that there may be scope for the SIL and SDA providers in each property to modify the template agreements provided by FaCS in ways more suitable to their needs, noting that this may give rise to other issues in the longer term.
Other risks for SIL providers remain their responsibility. It is a business judgement of each provider how they identify and manage those.
Further information sessions for affected providers have been promised.