STATE INDEPENDENT LIVING COUNCIL (SILC)
Composition of Statewide Independent Living Councils
The 1992 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act greatly expanded the role and responsibilities of the statewide independent living councils, in effect making them full partners with vocational rehabilitation in the independent living process. Primary among the new responsibilities of the councils is collaborating with the state vocational rehabilitation agency to develop the state independent living plan–including determining use of independent living funds and monitoring, reviewing, and evaluating implementation of this state plan.These new responsibilities (detailed in Section 705) provide councils with very significant authority in statewide independent living program administration–an authority that was lacking prior to passage of the ’92 Amendments.Therefore, it is very important that people who are appointed to the councils be not just knowledgeable about but also have a real commitment to disability rights and the independent living philosophy–and their translation into the kinds of service programs and advocacy activities that are genuinely appropriate for independent living centers.
Appointment. Members of the independent living council in each state (or territory) are appointed by the governor. (Exception: In certain states, another entity may be authorized to make appointments instead of the governor.) The Act requires the governor (or appointing entity) to solicit recommendations from organizations representing a broad range of people with disabilities prior to selecting individuals to serve as members of the council.Composition of the Council. The council membership must include:
- At least one director of an independent living center who has been selected by other center directors in the state to fill this role.
- A representative from the state vocational rehabilitation agency, who serves in a nonvoting ex officio role; representatives from other state agencies providing services to people with disabilities may also be appointed as nonvoting ex officio members of the council.
- At least one representative of the directors of any American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, if there is one in the state.
Other potential council members include staff members of independent living centers (in addition to the center director selected by his or her peers), parents and guardians of people with disabilities, advocates of and for people with disabilities, representatives from private businesses, representatives from organizations providing services to people with disabilities, and the catch-all, “other appropriate individuals.”Consumer Control. It is important to note that the Rehab Act requires that the majority of the members of the council be comprised of people with disabilities who are not employed by a state agency or center for independent living.Membership Qualifications. Individuals selected to serve as members of the council must be knowledgeable about independent living centers and services and must represent different parts of the state as well as different disability constituencies.
SILC Duties and Responsibilities
The statute specifically identifies five duties that the SILC must carry out:What the law says:
- jointly develop and sign (in conjunction with the designated State unit) the State plan required in section 704;
- monitor, review, and evaluate the implementation of the State plan;
- coordinate activities with the State Rehabilitation Council established under section 105, if the State has such a Council, or the commission described in section 101(a)(21)(A), if the State has such a commission, and councils that address the needs of specific disability populations and issues under other Federal law;
- ensure that all regularly scheduled meetings of the Statewide Independent Living Council are open to the public and sufficient advance notice is provided; and
- submit to the Commissioner such periodic reports as the Commissioner may reasonably request, and keep such records, and afford such access to such records as the Commissioner finds necessary to verify such reports.
What the law means:Every three years, the SILC is responsible for the development of the state plan for independent living (SPIL). The SPIL is signed by the chair of the SILC on behalf of the other Council members. Usually, this is done by an up and down vote following a motion of one of the members during a regularly-scheduled SILC meeting. There have been variations of this process, but under no circumstances should the chair sign the SPIL without the approval of the majority of the rest of the Council.The SPIL is also signed by the head of the designated state unit, usually VR , as well as the head of the VR agency that serves people who are blind, if a separate agency has been created by law in the state.The SPIL is then sent to RSA, where it is reviewed and approved by the Commissioner. The SPIL may be sent back to the state to be amended prior to final approval of the Commissioner.The SILC then has an obligation to “monitor, review, and evaluate the implementation of the State plan.” Each plan has a series of goals and objectives that the SILC must oversee. The more conscientious SILCs will set up a process to review each goal and adjust it as necessary.Historically, this is where many SILCs and centers have encountered problems. The duty says nothing about monitoring, reviewing, and evaluating centers, yet more than a few SILCs see this as part of what they do. Throughout this training, we will be exploring the partnership between centers and the SILCs. It’s critical that SILCs not adopt an adversarial position with a center or do anything to undermine the authority of the center’s board.The Council that oversees the operations of the VR agency is the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC). Although the SRC does not have sign-off authority for the state plan in Title I, they do have extensive responsibilities for monitoring and reviewing the VR program. The SRCs are required to have a representative from the SILC on their Council. This section of the Act requires that the SILC coordinate activities with the SRC.The Act also requires that regularly scheduled meetings be open to the public. Every state has an open meeting law and most councils follow their state guidelines.Finally, each SILC must submit a report to the Commissioner. The guidelines for reporting are set out in Section 704, thus, the 704 Report that must be completed in the quarter following the end of the federal Fiscal Year—October to December.What other responsibilities do the SILCs have?In addition to the five duties set out above, the statute also requires that the SILC play a central role in pulling together the independent living partners, assessing the IL needs of the state, promoting the expansion of programs to fill the gaps, and facilitating the development of the IL Network. The following are excerpts from Title VII that address these expectations:
- The plan shall set forth the steps that will be taken to maximize the cooperation, coordination, and working relationships among . . . public and private entities determined to be appropriate by the Council. (Sec. 704 (i))
- The plan shall set forth steps to be taken regarding outreach to populations that are unserved or underserved by programs under this title. . . (Sec. 704 (l))
- The SILC must prepare a plan that “ensure(s) the existence of appropriate planning, financial support and coordination, and other assistance to appropriately address, on a statewide and comprehensive basis, needs in the State . . .” (Sec. 704 (a)(3))
The SILC must, in conjunction with the designated state unit, address the use of funds authorized under Part B. These funds are specifically intended to facilitate the development of the IL Network in the state. (Sec. 713) The uses include, for instance, such activities as demonstrating ways to expand and improve independent living services, conducting studies and analyses and presenting the findings to policymakers, training on the IL philosophy; and providing outreach to populations that are unserved or underserved.