There is a growing interest in social investment in Australia, where investors see a positive social benefit as well as a financial return. Government and philanthropy alone do not have the resources to build the number of housing and support options needed to resolve the issues of young people in nursing homes in Australia. There are a number of philanthropic trusts and high-wealth individuals with capital ready to invest in compelling social enterprises and projects. However, there is a limited pipeline of social investment opportunities in Australia. Over the past few years, the Summer Foundation has collaborated with a range of partners to develop a model of social finance that will benefit young people in nursing homes. This social finance model uses government and philanthropic funds to leverage private capital for housing. Each year in Australia, over 200 people aged under 50 are admitted to nursing homes, where the average age is 84 years. Young people in nursing homes are one of the most marginalised groups of people in our society, with 53% receiving a visit from a friend less than once per year, and 82% seldom or never going out to visit their friends. The launch of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a significant part of the solution to resolving the issue of young people in nursing homes.
In 2013, the Summer Foundation launched its first housing demonstration project. This project has six accessible apartments for people with high support needs peppered throughout a 59-unit development of mixed private and social housing in the inner Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford. The Summer Foundation purchased two apartments for young people living in (or at risk of entering) aged care nursing homes. Transport Accident Commission (TAC) clients tenant the four other accessible apartments. The whole site was developed by a community housing provider, Common Equity Housing Limited (CEHL), and CEHL manage the tenancies for the Summer Foundation apartments. This housing development is centrally located, within 500 metres of a train station and shops. This maximises independence and inclusion, and minimises transport costs and reliance on paid support staff. Use of home automation technology and communication technology allows tenants to alert staff of unanticipated needs for assistance. There is a small on-site office that provides a hub for support staff 24-hours a day.
The Social Finance Think Tank was convened to explore the development of a social finance model for the Summer Foundation’s next housing demonstration project in the Hunter NDIS trial site in NSW. This provided an opportunity for people from a range of disciplines to explore funding and investment options for a real development scheduled for completion at the end of 2015.
There is no simple solution to bridging the gap between the rental stream available from people on a disability support pension and the cost of good quality housing that is well located. However, a number of strategies can be used concurrently. The Summer Foundation has used the insights from the Think Tank to develop funding proposals for government regarding a model of social finance for the Hunter Housing Demonstration Project. Some of the strategies and ideas generated by the Think Tank are not practical for the Summer Foundation’s target group or other projects, but may have relevance for other organisations working with people with disability and other groups of disadvantaged people. This report summarises the briefing papers provided to the Social Finance Think Tank participants, and documents the ideas, discussion, and conclusions reached by the group.