IDEAS facing funding trouble

TUMUT based disability support service IDEAS is once again facing a funding crisis as they prepare to enter their fourth year without secure, sustainable and long-term funding for their information service.

IDEAS, which stands for Information on Disability, Education and Awareness Services, is an independent, free information service geared towards the needs of people with disability, older people, their carers, supporters and families. It has been operating out of Tumut since the 1980s.

At the end of June in 2018, the NSW Government stopped funding IDEAS and other disability information services due to the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

IDEAS CEO Diana Palmer said that since they were defunded, the organisation has been relying on one-off, one year long grants to sustain them for the short term while they continue to search for a sustainable, long-term source of income.

They are currently receiving a grant from the Federal Department of Social Services to support their information service, with funding coming to an end this August. They are also receiving funding for an advocacy service they run from Campbelltown from the NSW Government that concludes on June 30.

When that funding concludes, Ms Palmer says that IDEAS will “get to hear from the NSW Government whether they will be, and for how long, extending that funding.”

In the meantime, funding for their information services remains tenuous each year.

“If we can manage to secure something [for] next year, we’re heading into the fourth year of not having any secure funding beyond one year which means that it’s very difficult for us to do any planning,” Ms Palmer said.

IDEAS recently had an independent accounting firm complete an analysis of the organisation and the work they undertake. Their recommendation was that the board needs to continue lobbying the Federal Government to fund information services because, as Ms Palmer said, “there is no way that our model can be made commercial, it’s not viable for commercialization.”

IDEAS currently have 21 employees based in Tumut. From July to Christmas last year, four employees left due to the continued funding uncertainty and the need to find secure employment.

“[Our] staff are on short-term contracts at the moment until we can procure any ongoing funding or find a viable source of income to take us beyond the end of August,” Ms Palmer said.

When the state government cut funding in 2018, they had argued that disability advocacy funding would be provided through the NDIS, negating the need for other state funding.

Ms Palmer has demonstrated that in reality the opposite is true, with their service only continuing to grow throughout the NDIS rollout and other changes to the advocacy landscape in recent years.

“In the 18/19 financial year, our calls and the traffic to our website grew by 50 per cent. This year, it’s growing again,” she said.

Not only is IDEAS’ information service growing at a huge rate, but the number one enquiry they receive pertains to the NDIS.

“We know that people with disabilities need access to information to be able to participate in the NDIS and community life,” Ms Palmer said.

“The ILC (Information, Linkages and Capacity Building) component of the NDIS is not working. It’s not delivering the information that people need now. IDEAS is filling that space and IDEAS funding needs to be continued to ensure that people with disabilities have access to good, relevant, accurate and timely information.”