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Confusion Over Need for Diagnosis Follows MCFD’s Announcement on Autism Funding

Posted October 28, 2021

Diagnosticians around BC have reported that parents are calling to cancel their child’s diagnostic appointments. Yesterday, the Ministry of Children and Family Development announced that they are moving to a “needs-based” system. In response to this announcement, some families have now concluded that there is no purpose in having their children diagnosed. 

Do not cancel your diagnostic appointment!

ACT is also requesting diagnostic clinics to share this page with families asking them to take a week to reconsider before cancelling their appointments.

The Importance of Seeking a Diagnosis

Here are a few points to help clarify the importance of seeking a diagnosis and the possible limitations of a needs-based system:

  • A diagnosis done by a team of multi-disciplinary specialists provides essential in-depth information to early intervention teams, to schools and to families.
  • A diagnosis of autism, ADHD, FASD, a communications disorder or many other ‘invisible’ conditions helps the child better understand their own needs and the family to provide more sensitive support in the home.
  • A diagnosis may allow the family to apply for the Disability Tax Credit – funded by the federal government and may affect access to school-based, and later adult, services.  
  • It will be at least three years before a new system comes into place across BC – and it may look very different from what MCFD is describing. In the meantime, newly diagnosed children with autism will receive funding. It would be premature to cancel diagnostic appointments. 

Follow the Money!

  • MCFD has not provided a budget which usually accompanies a program announcement. Minister Mitzi Dean did not provide assurances that there would be more funding when she answered questions from the media yesterday about the budget for this initiative.
  • Currently most MCFD-funded services do not require a prior diagnosis – essentially they are needs-based. Child Development Centres, Supported Child Development Program, Infant Development Program, Children and Youth Mental Health all have long waiting lists. Children often age out before they receive service.
  • For many years, MCFD has refused to increase funding to meet the demand from children and their families, not affected by autism, despite the desperate pleas of families. If MCFD is prioritizing their urgent needs, they could take immediate action and properly fund current services as they transform their system.
  • Many observers, including ACT, are concerned that the funding now allocated to 20,000 children with autism will now have to meet the needs of at least 30,000 children – and likely many more. There are also no specifics of how they will manage the capital costs of building multiple hubs across the province. Seeing budget commitments will be crucial to determining whether this initiative is simply a way of shutting down individualized funding or is truly about creating a robust system of support for children with disabilities.

Who Determines Need? 

  • A key issue is that someone will have to determine the relative needs of the children who are likely to overwhelm this new system for years to come. MCFD has not published the screening tools that are to be used by the new hubs, in order to assess relative need. Many families who have children with invisible disabilities have been told that their children either do not have needs or that the needs of others are higher. 
  • For the past two decades, families of children with autism have not had this barrier to accessing service because a diagnosis of autism has meant almost immediate access to individualized funding. Without specific funding and service commitments, it is difficult to see how this new system will provide support to 30,000 children.

ACT strongly believes that all children with support needs in BC require services that meet their individual needs – it is untenable that only children with autism should have access. However, we also remain concerned that based on MCFD’s record, there is little evidence that MCFD is prepared to implement systematic change that will ensure quality services based on evidence-informed practice – despite years of promising a new framework. The failure to collaborate with diagnostic services before announcing such a sweeping systemic change is an early indication of the need for MCFD to seek the input of experienced clinicians and researchers.

What is your response to MCFD’s Announcement cancelling Autism Funding in 2025?

If you are the caregiver of a child with support needs and have questions or concerns that you would like to share with ACT, please fill in the form linked below. We will be compiling this information and posting it on a special page on ACT’s website.

Share your input 


MCFD Announcements and Resources:

ACT’s Appeal to Families: