Ability Links program faces end to government funding

A Hunter-born program for people with a disability appears destined to end this year despite a $40 million funding commitment from the state and federal governments to keep it running.

An Ability Links program employee from Sydney has told Australian Community Media he and his colleagues have been informed the funding will run out on November 1.

In 2018, the state government committed to fund the $55 million-a-year program until June 30 this year.

The government agreed on the eve of the state election in March to tip in another $11.6 million and secured $28.5 million from the federal government to extend the program beyond June 30.

The Ability Links worker, who is employed by Settlement Services International and who asked to remain anonymous, had believed this meant the program would run for another year.

"We read in your paper the comments from the Liberals that, if they were re-elected, they would re-fund the Ability Links program," he said.

"The Liberals were re-elected at the state election and at the general election, but it hasn't been re-funded.

"The program I'm on, it ends on the first of November. What's happened with the $40 million? No idea. It's certainly not gone via Ability Links."

The NSW Department of Communities and Justice, formerly Family and Community Services, did not respond directly when asked if Ability Links was winding up on November 1.

"The NSW Government committed $11.6 million for the continuation of Ability Links funding in NSW in the 2019-20 Budget," a spokesperson said.

"This funding has been delivered whilst the National Disability Insurance Scheme Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) funding rounds continue to roll out."

The ILC provides $222 million in grants to organisations to deliver projects in the community that benefit people with disability, their carers and families.

An NDIA spokesperson said Ability Links was a NSW government responsibility.

The Sydney employee said it appeared as though the NDIA expected its local area coordinators to do the work of Ability Links.

"Already they are overworked and not meeting their KPIs about how many they're assessing," he said.

"Ability Links is about working with communities. The local area coordinators don't have the connections and won't have the time.

"They should wait until the NIDS has been embedded more and they've got rid of some problems within that, then look at Ability Links."

The worker said the department and the NDIA had been unclear about "what we do with our participants".