The NDIA has just stepped away from an open, competitive approach to awarding ILC grants, with the announcement of the outcomes of their new non-competitive, 'invite only' ILC Remote Grants.
Projects developed through this ‘pilot-round' round are intended to inform development models of good practice for the delivery of ILC in remote areas and to guide future ILC investment. The thirteen grants, totaling over $9 million, aim to provide place-based and culturally specific information, resources and supports for people with disability living in remote communities.
This is a significant divergence from past ILC grant-making processes. Agency staff have recently acknowledged that a purely competitive-based approach may not be the best and only way to fund ILC into the future. But, what was the rationale for this ‘invitation only’ approach? Why was this change necessary and who made the decisions? It is ringing some quite serious alarm bells for us at DSC.
The NDIA tells us “organisations invited to apply were identified through consultation between the NDIA and Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments”. Does this mean we are returning to behind closed doors, government decision-making, where public servants pick the winners and provide us with solutions? Not long ago, the NDIA promised us more transparency, not less.
DSC is in no way commenting on or criticising any of the grants made in this round. Any concerns raised are solely about the selection process. It is certainly true that we need far greater innovation in mainstream services and community activities to ensure people with disability have genuine opportunities to participate. Our sector on its own has never been able to achieve what is needed to develop a truly inclusive society. But it’s not rocket science to recognise that short-term, one-off projects cannot increase people’s capacity to participate as equal citizens.
ILC needs to seek out genuine innovation, engage with the sector, be open and competitive, while at the same time holding onto the good state-funded ILC-type services that are currently feeling incredibly threatened.
In the coming months, a new ILC Investment Strategy will be released. It is set to describe the NDIA's new strategy for investment. We will have to wait to see if the NDIA will make genuine progress with its approach to engagement and transparency, or if it is just taking one step forward and two steps back.