Survey Results: BC’s Autism Community Rejects MCFD Take-Over of Support Services

ACT thanks all 1,621 people who took the time to fill in our recent survey. The survey report, released today, clearly demonstrates that there is widespread concern about Ministry of Children and Family Development’s (MCFD) decision to take over the information, support and RASP services that ACT has provided for over a decade.

Only 9% of respondents endorsed the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s decision to take on this role as of July 1, cancelling a 25-year history of  the province contracting with a community-based service provider to provide information and support to the autism community in B.C.

71% of survey respondents indicated that they prefer to access autism information and services through a not-for-profit organization. The survey was commissioned by ACT and carried out by Reichert & Associates, an independent research firm, and points to many areas of concern.

“Reasons for this concern range from respondents’ past negative experiences with MCFD to their present perception of MCFD as a ministry that is “too slow to respond,” “too far removed from front line support,” and one that already has “too much on its plate”, according to the report, Identifying Need, Delivering Service: Autism Community Satisfaction Survey (pdf).
 
The results strongly endorsed the work of  ACT – Autism Community Training:

  • 86% of respondents indicated that they would be comfortable contacting ACT if they were facing an autism-related challenge, compared to 35% who would be comfortable contacting MCFD.
  • 93% of respondents were satisfied with their access to services and resources through ACT.
  • 96% of respondents were satisfied with ACT’s website, compared to 43% satisfied with MCFD’s website.

“Minister Stephanie Cadieux told a delegation from ACT’s Board on February 27th, that ‘some’ parents may not contact MCFD for autism services but this report reflects our concern that many will not”, says Deborah Pugh, ACT’s Executive Director.

“If government is serious about supporting all families they should reconsider this short-sighted decision. On average, aboriginal and immigrant children receive a late diagnosis compared to the general population. Very few of these children are benefiting from early intervention and we know from our work with vulnerable communities that they will be especially reluctant to seek support from a government service,” explains Pugh.

MCFD has explained the decision to cancel the 2016 Request for Proposals issued in August 2016 as a way to save money and streamline services, by having MCFD provide information and support services directly at the Pacific Autism Family Centre (PAFC) for the nearly 13,000 children with an autism diagnosis in B.C.

PAFC was opened by Premier Christy Clark in November 2016 and was funded by a $20 million grant authorized by her predecessor Premier Gordon Campbell. The centre is still seeking tenants; because of high costs, most will likely be private companies charging parents for services.

Since 2007, the funding that ACT receives per child with autism in BC has dropped from $133 to $50 per child, because of the increase in the numbers of children being diagnosed. ACT’s core funding from MCFD has been frozen since 2010.

“We don’t see how MCFD will be able to maintain the necessary technology, pay unionized staff, cover the high operating costs at PAFC and ensure service quality while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars,” said ACT’s Board President, Dr. Christian Duff, Professor Emeritus at Royal Roads University.

While losing two-thirds of its income has been a financial blow, ACT is heartened by the high approval ratings received from all sectors of the autism community in the survey.
 
“ACT will continue to provide training in 2017 and expand our free, community-focused, online training and information resources. We are working to find alternative sources of funding and sponsorship to expand our reach across Canada and internationally”, says Pugh, adding, “We were surprised when MCFD provided us with $150,000 at the end of March, to support our bursary fund for parents. These one-time-only funds are appreciated but we will need to diversify our sources of funding.”

ACT’s highly committed staff will continue to deliver our information and support services to the best of our ability until June 30th. From the survey comments and calls we get at ACT, we know that parents and professionals are confused about what MCFD will provide. We hope that MCFD will soon share a detailed plan for its new program at PAFC with the autism community. ACT will post the plan on the new Transition Page of ACT’s website when available.

For updates on the transition of ACT’s services to MCFD, please visit: www.actcommunity.ca/transition

Download the survey results: 

Identifying Need, Delivering Service:
Autism Community Satisfaction Survey (pdf)

ACT’s Quick Facts (pdf)