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victorian expansion plan 2023-27

MISSION: All Autistic students in every Victorian government school has an I CAN Autistic Mentor available to them. Making the I CAN School® program and services available to all Victorian government primary and secondary schools.


  • 1. With the advent of the Disability Inclusion Reform (and its Autism Education Strategy) and the School Mental Health Menu, Victoria is poised to set a world-leading example in promoting and celebrating Autistic students and their success at school. I CAN Network is ready to expand the role of its group mentoring program within the context of achieving the Autism Education Strategy.
  • 2. With the right investment, it is entirely possible for every government student and every government school to have an I CAN Autistic Mentor available to them in Victoria. Whilst the I CAN mentoring program is inclusive of a very broad range of students, it remains predominantly an Autistic-led peer-to-peer group mentoring program.
  • 3. 77 Victorian government primary and secondary schools have been involved in the I CAN School program between January 2020 to October 2022 (see the list in Attachment 2). Across these schools, about 650 students have attended an I CAN school-based mentoring program. A single program offers 8 hours of group mentoring to a single student.
  • 4. Under its current CFA with VDET (Mental Health Reform Division), I CAN Ltd is on track to engage 101 government schools by June 2023 in spite of COVID-19 disrupting its delivery in schools.
  • 5. Here is a breakdown of how the 101 schools fall across Victorian government schools:
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  • 6. The need for I CAN in schools, particularly secondary schools, is clear. Of Victoria’s Autistic secondary students, 44% had to move school because they were not supported at school (Amaze, 2017). Nationally, one-third of Autistic students do not make it past Year 10 (ABS, 2018). Autistic Australians have a suicide rate nine times that of the general population (Australian Autism Alliance, 2022). Accordingly, Victoria’s Autistic government secondary students have a unique context to which I CAN Ltd is well-placed to respond. Our mentoring programs help engage Autistic government secondary students at school and improve their mental wellbeing.
  • 7. Against this context, Attachment 1 demonstrates the positive impact of I CAN’s group mentoring on Autistic secondary students (as of October 2022), including a 22% increase in connection with Autistic student peers, 12% increase in feeling positive about being Autistic and a 13% increase in optimism.


  • 8. With the right investment, I CAN forecasts that it could grow to deliver in-person and online programs across the following number of schools by CY27, the priority being given to growth in secondary schools.
  • 9. Whilst the typical I CAN program is 8 x 1-hr sessions, the above reach has been developed cognisant that there will be program variations across the diversity of schools. Some programs will be delivered over 4 sessions either in-person or online programs, including the Year 7 transition programs (see Attachment 4).
  • 10. I CAN would be available to the rest of the government school system through 6-week online school lunchtime group mentoring programs (in which students from across 3 x schools could join) and online and in-person speaking sessions for student bodies (including Autistic students), parents/ carers and school staff.
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  • 11. Outside of schools, Autistic/ neurodivergent government students register for I CAN Ltd’s I CAN Online which occurs after school hours. I CAN Online delivers five 6-week cycles per year and three 6-session online school holiday programs. Thirty-five percent of each cycle’s participants are Victorian government school students. Under its current CFA with VDET, I CAN has engaged 663 government students in the I CAN Online program as of September 2022. The cost of the online program per student is about $310.
  • 12. Attachment 3 demonstrates that online group mentoring can achieve high impact. For instance, among the results of 2022’s I CAN Online Cycle 2, there was a 19% increase in connection with peers within the program, a 16% increase in self-acceptance within online sessions and a 14% improvement in communication skills.
  • 13. Within the business plan referred to above, I CAN will indicate the portion of investment required to help the I CAN Online program achieve the following engagement of government students over the next 4-5 years:
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  • 14. I CAN Network Ltd is an Autistic-led social enterprise which aims to build ‘a world that embraces Autism’. I CAN empowers Autistic/ neurodivergent young people with an ‘I CAN’ attitude through our online mentoring and school-based mentoring programs. I CAN’s point of difference is our mentoring programs are predominantly delivered by trained Autistic staff, half of whom have graduated from its secondary school mentoring program.
  • 15. VDET’s CFA with I CAN ($1.5M) spans January 2020 until June 2023. I CAN has mentored 616 government students (of the target 500) in our online mentoring program. I CAN has engaged 77 government schools (of the target 100) and about ƒ650 students (of the target 1,000) in our I CAN SchoolⓇ program. Note the 100 government schools include both primary and secondary government schools.
  • 16. The scale up of I CAN Network’s school mentoring program is an initiative of the VDET Autism Education Strategy. DET’s weblinks for the I CAN program can be found both here and here.
  • 17. As a brand name, I CAN School® encompasses all of I CAN Network’s offerings in a school, including its primary school program I CAN Imagination Club® which is a non-Autism specific program which primary schools use for a range of students across grades 1 to6.
  • 18. Students do not have to be Autistic to participate in an I CAN program. I CAN’s secondary school program has a more specific focus on Autism and neurodiversity. Many students across both primary and secondary programs have a range of conditions. Recent data showed that 82% have anxiety, 27% have depresssion and 13% have suicidal thoughts.
  • 19. For a single school, the I CAN School® program can involve 8 x 1-hour group mentoring sessions (facilitated by 2 x I CAN staff) for up to 16 students.
  • 20. Overall, the cost of the I CAN program per Victorian government student, in a scenario in which students receive 8 hours of mentoring, is currently ~$1,216. The cost to a government school is $417 per session. Each I CAN session is delivered by two I CAN staff and is supervised by a school staff member. I CAN mentoring sessions are complemented by an information session for parents ($363), a professional development workshop for school staff ($495) and a student motivational talk ($187). Please note that many rural government schools pool their students and budgets together to resource inter-school programs for up to 16 students per program. As I CAN is now a provider on the School Mental Health Menu, schools can either use their Mental Health Menu funds, or if it’s reached their region, Disability Inclusion Tier 2 funding, to purchase the program.
  • 21. Whilst I CAN Ltd’s school program prices cover its direct costs (direct facilitation staff), they are not enough to cover its management costs. I CAN Ltd’s program delivery requires it to have a school programs regional management team, evaluation manager, CRM manager, human resources manager, finance and administration manager and CEO. The $1.5M behind the current VDET CFA with I CAN Ltd makes a contribution to these overheads in Victoria ($1.2 million is allocated to the School program overheads; $0.3 million is allocated to I CAN Online program overheads).
  • 22. Every program is measured against I CAN Ltd’s outcomes framework, with the outcomes reported in its annual social impact report.
  • 23. As part of a variation agreement to the VDET/ I CAN 2020 – 2023 CFA, the Australian Council for Educational Research has independently evaluated I CAN Network’s online mentoring program in Victoria.
Vic Expansion



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