MCFD’s June 22nd press release announced its limited pandemic supports for families will continue through the summer. View the full press release.
How many ‘new families’ will benefit?
It is unclear how many new families will benefit from this announcement – whether the 1,300 families who received $225 a month from the Emergency Relief Fund as of April, will still receive it after July 1st when the next round of funding begins. The release refers to doubling but does not specify how much MCFD is investing in this new initiative. MCFD has specified that 30,000 children are eligible for emergency respite funding, depending on their level of need and have left it to social workers to decide.
Minister Conroy’s emergency response focuses on a new service delivery framework
On June 23, 2020, Minister Katrine Conroy, in a CBC interview defended MCFD’s much criticized emergency response record. Many families are reporting to the media and to their MLA’s that they feel desperate and abandoned by government. See ACT’s Community Feedback – Responses from Families.
The Minister defended the lack of emergency funding for respite supports for all families of children with special needs in crisis, by focusing on MCFD’s plan for a new MCFD service delivery framework – which will not be released until 2021.
Unlike other ministers, both provincial and federal, Minister Conroy does not differentiate between the requirement of government to provide emergency support and the long-term issues of policy development. If those responsible for the extended care sector in B.C. had decided to provide a limited emergency response to only 10 per cent of COVID-19 infected care homes for only three months, while they overhauled long-term policy, it would have been a catastrophe.
No New Money – will clawing back autism funding pay for emergency respite?
A common thread that is running through MCFD’s response is that there appears to be no new money for this huge ministry tasked with protecting the most vulnerable children in the province. The current emergency provisions give families more flexibility in spending the existing limited funding envelopes that they already have, but no new money is being pumped into MCFD. The money that MCFD is clawing back in unused Autism Funding that families can’t spend on therapy could pay for this limited respite many times over.
Details of the June 22 Announcement
Emergency Relief Fund “Final Round” – July 1 to September 30, 2020
This “final round” of the short-term Emergency Relief Support fund, which provides payments of $225 per month for three months to eligible families, will be made available from July 1 to September 30, 2020. Children/youth who are eligible for the Autism Funding Program and the At Home Program medical benefits are eligible for this funding if approved for MCFD CYSN services prior to June 15, 2020. It has not been made clear if families who previously received these payments will be eligible for the second round of support.
When first announced in their April 8th press release, the Emergency Relief Fund consisted of $900,000. The MCFD has not announced what the funding envelope is for this “doubling” of emergency support.
Autism Funding extension still limited
The limited autism funding extension for children turning 6 or 19 has been extended to include children whose 6th or 19th birthday falls between March 15, 2020 and August 31, 2020. These families will be allowed three additional months to use unspent funding. The continued refusal of MCFD to extend contracts for all, because of the disruption to therapy triggered by COVID-19, has infuriated families. Nearly 8,000 signatures have been added to the petition calling on MCFD to reverse its decision. The primary request is that MCFD allow all families of children with autism to have more time to spend their treatment funding, given COVID-19 has shut down most therapy services.
ACT’s advocacy efforts will continue
ACT continues to call on Minister Katrine Conroy and Premier John Horgan to provide clear, compassionate and rapid support measures to families desperately trying to care for their vulnerable children. We urge families and the professionals who support them to let them know that this is not the time to focus on balancing government budgets at the expense of the most vulnerable. To read the letters from families that ACT has been copied on, see Community Feedback on COVID-19.
It is worth acknowledging that the pressure that families are bringing to bear on the provincial government through their advocacy efforts are having an effect. Families and professionals should continue to contact the provincial government. The letters we are receiving from across the province make very real the confusion and distress of families supporting children with special needs. In contrast, the Ministry of Social Development and Community Living BC have done a much better job of being compassionate and transparent.
Share your advocacy efforts with the special needs community
We invite the special needs community, including professionals, to share your feedback on ACT’s Facebook Page or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org if they wish to remain anonymous. We have especially appreciated the insights of Children and Youth with Special Needs Social Workers and we would like to hear from school district staff who are taking the initiative to provide in school support.