The Hunter's Ability Links program will lose its funding in October, leaving its clients and staff in limbo.
The St Vincent De Paul Society confirmed in an email to the Newcastle Herald that its Ability Links programs in the Hunter and southern Sydney had been funded by the NSW government until October 31.
"The activities that Ability Links performed over the past six years are transitioning to the Information Linkages and Capacity-building (ILC) function of the NDIS scheme," a Vinnies NSW spokesperson said.
"Any decision regarding funding for Ability Links is a matter for the NSW government."
Ability Links, which was piloted by Vinnies in the Hunter six years ago then rolled out across the state, has been on funding life support for more than a year.
It won a reprieve just before the March state election courtesy of a $28.5 million top-up from the federal government and $11.6 million from the state government.
But the Newcastle Herald reported last week that this funding was poised to expire by November 1.
Lake Macquarie City Council's community partnerships manager, Andrew Bryant, said Ability Links had played an "integral part in promoting and developing accessibility options".
"The council has worked extensively with Ability Links to provide services to people of all abilities throughout Lake Macquarie," he said.
"This includes provision of an IncludingYou tent at recent major council events to provide free sensory resources and mobility equipment, and completion of an access audit at Lake Mac Performing Arts Centre.
"The audit resulted in Ability Links funding the installation of a hearing loop at the venue."
The program was a "valued part" of the community and an active member of the council's Ageing and Disability Advisory Panel.
Ability Links employs 39 staff in the Hunter.
It's hard to put these things in place then not replace them with something.Mark Grierson, Disability Advocacy NSW
The service helps people with a disability participate in sport, work, study and other community activities.
It is understood the Aboriginal Ability Links program will continue until June 30.
The NDIS's ILC program provides $222 million to organisations for projects in the community that benefit people with disability, their carers and families.
But industry sources, Ability Links staff and parents who have spoken to the Newcastle Herald doubt whether the NDIS can replicate the work of Ability Links.
Disability Advocacy NSW chief executive Mark Grierson, whose own organisation is facing a state funding review, said he and his staff were concerned about the loss of Ability Links.
"A lot has been said about the ILC, but it clearly hasn't been working that well, and it's sort of one-off funding to do things," he said.
"I guess the ability linkers ... they always understood it was a time-limited thing, but it's hard to put these things in place then not replace them with something because they're about helping people who are not eligible [for the NDIS] or for people who need a bit of extra help to apply for the NDIS."
Mr Grierson toured all his offices around the state in recent weeks and said his staff were concerned they would have to absorb some of the work of Ability Links without having the resources to "fully help them".
"Clearly we can't do their full role. We're advocates, not coordinators or ability linkers," he said.
Asked whether he was making any attempts to keep the program alive, NSW Families, Communities and Disability Services Minister Gareth Ward repeated the government line that it had funded Ability Links while the ILC was being rolled out.
He did not respond to questions about whether Ability Links' work could be absorbed into the NDIS, what work had been done to transition Ability Links participants to the NDIS and what would happen to these participants after October 31.
Jasmin Kable, the manager of All Ability Sports Coaching, said Ability Links had helped 20 Hunter players compete in a Sydney-based touch football competition.
"They really helped people," she said. "I know it's kind of being rolled into the NDIS. From our point of view, we're not NDIS-registered. We're a small business but act more as a community program for everybody.
"They've provided some grant support for our players, in particular for our high-performance players to play in the Vawdon Cup Inclusion League. Registration, comp fees, travel, extra training costs, uniforms."
Ms Kable said Ability Links had also helped AASC run community sessions in the Lower Hunter about disability inclusion in sport.
"They were kind of the key networker in the web that were happy to work together, which can kind of be the opposite with the NDIS because people are competing for clients, which is why we've stayed out of that.
"There's also people with disability who don't get funding."