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What's happening with ILC?

ILC has changed heaps. Let's get up-to-date on where things are at and what the future may look like.

By Todd Winther

Updated 15 Apr 202418 May 2022
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Recently at DSC, we’ve been asking: what exactly is going on with The Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) program? ILC has undergone several changes. And with more change yet to come, there remains a lot of confusion. So let’s drill down on some answers.  

What is the ILC Program?

The ILC program has been one of the key planks of the Scheme from its earliest days. It is designed to create programs that link with other Federal Government departments such as Health, Justice, and Employment. In addition, the program is designed to enhance the benefits created by the Scheme for the community, by creating more accessible and equitable opportunities for NDIS participants. The ILC program is also designed to work with other policy programs, including the National Disability Strategy, the Disability Employment Service, the National Disability Advocacy Program, the Disability Gateway and the Carers Gateway.

What has ILC looked Like to Date?

ILC grants concentrate on four specific funding streams, including programs to support market information, economic and community participation, and individual and capacity building. All of these have the common theme of engaging people with disabilities within the community. They can cater resources to maximise their NDIS plans without solely relying upon the Scheme.

Originally, the ILC was designed to have a significant impact with support from Local Area Coordinators (LACs), allowing the funding to play a more prominent role in the sector. When the Scheme has formulated, a crucial part of their role description was for them to act as facilitators to other government services so that the funding could work hand in hand with these programs. As the LAC role has evolved into a quasi-planner function, however, this aspect of the program has faltered. The ILC was left to find its way to develop, leading to a significant redesign.

Changing Departments

Since October 2020, the government department which administers the grants program has changed from the NDIA to the Department of Social Services (DSS). The government explained this change by saying the departmental shift will allow the grants to have a more significant impact and better reflect the National Disability Strategy.

A New Strategy

DSS has spent the last 18 months evaluating the effectiveness of the Scheme overall, and there were not entirely happy with what they found. First, in April 2021, the department assessed (Word doc) the program’s effectiveness since the latest ILC Strategy was implemented in July 2017. The report details that more than 197 programs were operating under the ILC grant process during the two and a half years. 

The report highlighted seven areas that the department needed to investigate before the new investment round: 

  • The strategic intent of the program.
  • The challenge of achieving national coverage, particularly in rural and remote areas.
  • The distribution of funding across jurisdictions.
  • The role of intermediaries within other departments and the Scheme, for example, Local Area Coordinators.
  • The method of distributing funding including the option of establishing more short-term grants.
  • How to capture the data, in both qualitative and quantitative ways, to measure the effectiveness of the program; and 
  • How to improve the application and funding processes to minimise complexity and reduce duplication for the applicants and the departments.

The report also flagged possible changes to the administration of the grant program. Specifically, DSS suggested that they are investigating changing the composition of the four funding streams. The report noted criticism that these four classifications have led to a lack of flexibility within the program, limiting the opportunity for a wider variety of organisations to apply.

Seven months after the evaluation, in November 2021, the department commissioned a review undertaken through Swinburne University’s Centre for Social Impact to investigate the areas above.

It concluded that budget cuts and the lack of emphasis on Tier 2 have significantly impacted the program’s performance. Further, the report criticised the ILC’s funding structure, suggesting the program’s focus on delivering short-term grants is counter-productive to the grant’s original intent of providing services to address entrenched issues in the sector. It’s fair to say that the report argued that a change in government departments should be only the beginning of the more substantial changes required.

A Way Forward?

The current ILC investment strategy will expire later this year, and these calls for change will likely be answered when its successor is released. The timing for such reforms could not be better with the Federal Election decided soon. This realignment may allow the incoming government to refocus its priorities and ensure the grant process is more overtly aligned with the National Disability Strategy, just as its predecessor had pledged.

Such changes could lead to a more holistic approach to disability policy that enables the grants to focus on a whole of government issues and does not rely on the Scheme to carry all the policy weight. A successful ILC program will lead to a well-rounded and comprehensive policy that better addresses the sector’s complexities.

Authors

Todd Winther

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