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NDP Wants to Improve Supports to BC Families with Developmental Disabilities, but Many Questions Remain

By Alanna Hendren, Executive Director DDA

The recent Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) announcement related to new “hubs” that will support families of children with disabilities who may or may not have a specific diagnosis has caused quite a stir in the special needs community.  Families of children with autism are concerned their individualized funding will be taken away, threatening the support networks they’ve developed over the years.  On the other hand, kids who have other special needs have been receiving no individualized funding and few other services, disadvantaging these disadvantaged kids even further.  The hub model is being introduced to solve these problems but the announcement has no details or specifications of what these hubs might be – Will they be virtual hubs?  Will they have professionals on-site or refer to agencies?  Will MCFD staff work there and approve funding or services?  Based on what?  What services will they have for kids with autism?  For kids with other disorders?  How will this new system interact with support systems currently in place like Infant Development, child care, and the K-12 system?  What about those services funded by the Ministry of Health?

These questions need to be answered before families can have any sort of reaction to the news other than fear of losing what they already have or cynicism about MCFD being able to actually establish services that work.  Many years of budget cuts have taught families that any announcement about new initiatives means dilution of what’s already there.

This does not need to be the case.  MCFD has said their new system will provide supports to 28% more children, including aboriginal children, so families should expect at least 28% in additional funding for the MCFD special needs budget.  Anything less would be just another excuse for cutting funding to the most vulnerable children in our communities.  Autism funding has pitted families of children with one unique diagnosis against those with children who have all sorts of other conditions that are just as or more debilitating than autism.  Families should not have to spend their time fighting with each other when they could join together and demand that all children with special needs receive the funding that will maximize their potential as they grow into adulthood.

The Developmental Disabilities Association was founded by a group of families who had kids with special needs.  Not autism or Down Syndrome or cerebral palsy or fetal alcohol syndrome – all kids with developmental disabilities, everyone.  Regretfully, some of the issues they were dealing with in 1952 don’t sound much different from those some families are dealing with today.  A hub model could be fantastic but after their experiences over the past 20 to 30 years, in particular, very few families have the confidence that MCFD can ‘transform’ yet again to a different model, put families yet again through the related upheaval, all to discover yet again that it was just an exercise in cost-cutting and privatization.

See the government news release here.