The much anticipated ILC Investment Strategy taking us beyond 2020 was released within a hair’s breadth of Christmas Eve.
The strategy remains true to its foundation principles outlined in the Commissioning Framework, particularly in relation to the importance of maintaining a strong outcomes focus and the balance between building individual capacity and creating broader opportunities for people with disability.
However, it is in the application of these principles that we see a different approach to previous years.
Many of you will be happy to hear that one year grants are no more. ‘Halleluiah’ do I hear you say? Trying to establish and deliver a project with guaranteed sustainable outcomes within twelve months was virtually impossible, to say nothing of the contractual workload it generated for the Agency. It is now expected that most grants will be for three years.
Although the original Commissioning Framework alluded to the use of a variety of funding options, the open competitive model has dominated so far. In future there will be a mix of ‘targeted grants and procurement’ and we at DSC will keep a keen eye on the path these opportunities take.
So what does the future rollout look like? Apart from the current grant which closed on 21 December, we expect to see an Information Program funding round open in early 2019, followed by an Individual Capacity Building opportunity quickly following around mid year. Also announced on 3 January and due to open soon is the upcoming Economic Participation grant round which will seek innovative proposals to build the capacity of people with disability to participate in work, as well as supporting the creation of employment opportunities. At this stage it isn’t clear whether funding limits will be set for these grants or if they will remain open.
For peer support organisations, the ILC has been a double-edged sword, a potential pathway to greatness or a bitter pill to swallow. The pressure that these organisations have experienced as a result of their jurisdictional funding and service agreements ceasing, with no guarantee of ILC success to keep their doors open, has been enormous. We know. We’ve walked the road with many of them for close to three years. It has been particularly difficult for jurisdictions still waiting to fully transition into the NDIS as it means they now have been denied the opportunity to ever apply for a jurisdictional grant. Unlike providers who have had the opportunity to continue delivering services as participants transition to individually funded packages, user-led organisations have faced an absolute cliff – secure an ILC grant or close. The collective loss of their extensive knowledge and expertise would be a catastrophe.
To see the Strategy now focusing on investing in these organisations and responding to potential emerging gaps is a welcome and wise decision by the Agency.
Overall, ILC to 2022 looks promising. Clearly acknowledged as the ‘glue’ that will help make the NDIS work for all people with disability, ILC cannot continue to play second fiddle to individualised funding and must be recognised as the agent of change it has the potential to be.
Respectful and genuine partnerships forged between mainstream and community services and the disability sector require a shift in the way we all do business. The disability sector alone cannot create the change needed to achieve a fully inclusive society. If it could, it would have happened years ago. Mainstream and communities need to take advantage of the great opportunities ILC presents. They can drive change from within by forging effective partnerships with the disability sector.
As always we will keep a watchful eye on the Strategy as it rolls out and continue to share our opinions with you.