Oversight of the nation’s Centers for Independent Living is severely lacking, a new audit finds, calling into question how effective the centers are at helping people with disabilities integrate into the community.
In a report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General, officials found that the agency’s Rehabilitation Services Administration is doing far too little to assess the effectiveness of the independent living centers it oversees across the country.
The Centers for Independent Living provide information and referral services, training to help those with special needs live independently, peer counseling and advocacy services. As of 2010, there were 337 federally-funded centers across the country, all of which are run predominantly by people with disabilities themselves.
Between October 2007 and September 2010, investigators found that the Rehabilitation Services Administration conducted just 40 onsite reviews, a fraction of the 153 that are mandated under the law. What’s more, the report found that the locations selected for the reviews were not chosen randomly as required.
More problems were uncovered when the inspector general selected 12 independent living centers in 11 states to assess. While each location provided all of the services required, investigators found that poor record keeping permeated centers, with inconsistent reports on funding and how many consumers were served.
“As a result of the inadequate monitoring and oversight, partially supported performance reports and inadequately documented files, (the Rehabilitation Services Administration) did not have sufficient, accurate information to provide required oversight of the grant programs at the CILs reviewed,” the inspector general wrote. “Appropriate oversight is essential to ensuring that the program goals are met.”
Officials at the Rehabilitation Services Administration acknowledged the problems and told the inspector general that staffing and funding issues make it “extremely difficult” to review the growing number of Centers for Independent Living.