ACT continues to be copied on letters from parents protesting the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s announcement that individualized funding will end in 2025. The letter that follows was sent to Premier John Horgan by Heather Harrison on December 10th, in honour of International Human Rights Day, and sums up the protests from families from across BC. ACT is sharing the letter with her permission.
December 10, 2021
Premier John Horgan
PO Box 9041 Stn Prov. Govt.
Victoria, BC V8W 9E1
Dear Honorable Premier Horgan,
Today, Friday, December 10th, is Human Rights Day. The BC Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and the United Nations share a similar goal: to address the root causes of inequality, discrimination, and injustice that affect the most vulnerable people in society, including people with disabilities
As you know, recently, Ms. Mitzi Dean, Minster of Children and Family Development, has decided to claw back individualized autism funding, which is currently guaranteed and earmarked for therapeutic use with each autistic child in BC. Her plan is to remove these funds from families and “pool” them into a generalized, centralized, special needs “hub”, which will not guarantee services to any child, regardless of diagnosis. The only thing this plan guarantees, is a complete lack of accountability to parents of children with special needs and taxpayers.
Ms. Dean has repeatedly stated that all children will receive the supports they need under her new model, however, this statement is misleading. She intends to have the hubs decide on what each child’s “needs” are, rather than families who know the child best, or the highly qualified clinicians, who are responsible for the child’s diagnosis. Despite rating criteria, this will be an extremely subjective decision on the part of each hub, and one that will inevitably err on the side of conserving the budget; not providing quality service to disabled children. Even if a child is fortunate enough to make it past the gatekeepers and into individual service reception, the quality of service (since there will not be a choice in provider), as well as recourse for families who are not happy with service (or lack thereof), are systemic problems with this proposed model that stand in the way of disabled children having their true needs sufficiently met. Children and families with complex, unique, and diverse needs, require flexible solutions – not a one-size fits all approach that is ineffective and often traumatizing.
Too many families are already experiencing vast injustices and exhausting advocacy battles in other needs-based hub models, such as the public school system, where, even with significant advocacy, children are not being supported adequately. MCFD simply cannot serve all children with support needs in BC, to an appropriate minimum standard with this proposed model, unless Ms. Dean plans to either offer an unlimited budget or instruct the hubs to utilize gatekeeping procedures which prevent children from receiving the personalized help they need.
Her decision also jeopardizes the chances that services will even exist for most children once the hub system has completed its rollout. There is compelling evidence that the act of carrying out Ms. Dean’s plan, will destroy the infrastructure that currently successfully supports thousands of children in this province and has taken over 20 years to build. Given the massive scale in which she plans to launch this program, it will rely heavily on the compliance of current service providers to accept regular employment contracts with hubs. Unfortunately, service providers across the province are stating that they have no interest in giving up their businesses to do this. In fact, some have even expressed that they would rather work in fast food service, than work under this new model. Therefore, there will be even fewer service providers available than there are now because they will simply refuse to apply for employment within hubs. Children will suffer as a result.
Whether or not current service providers will commit to supporting children, despite the way in which they are being forced to do it, is a huge concern. It is not, however, as concerning as the government believing that it is okay to implement a system which strips individuals of their right to make autonomous decisions regarding their own needs, and replaces it with a government entity poised to dictate to them what their needs are. Parents, caregivers, and service providers opine, almost unanimously, that implementation of the hub model will result in inferior services for children, and we find it hard to believe that Ms. Dean truly thinks this hub model is a better system than putting funds directly in the hands of the individuals and families who need them. The needs of children will never come first in the cost-saving model Ms. Dean plans to implement, and parents ubiquitously resent her telling us they will. We have experienced models just like hers before and they simply are not in the best interest of children.
Ms. Dean’s proposed model (if she is permitted to implement it), will create a systemic root cause of inequality, discrimination, and injustice. Her plan fosters an ableist and prejudiced approach, likely to only serve children who are most visibly disabled, and offer nothing to those with less visible disabilities. This will require parents to take on endless hours of tireless advocacy if they wish to receive the bare minimum of support for their child (which is how the school system currently functions). If this flawed system is implemented, the human rights of thousands of children will be jeopardized.
I am requesting again that you overturn Ms. Dean’s decision to claw back individualized autism funding and rectify the damage she has done. Parents and service providers across this province are anxiously awaiting our meaningful consultation in establishing a way to provide individualized funding to all children with special needs in BC.
Ms. Kasari Govender, Human Rights Commissioner of BC – email@example.com
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Caputo, MP, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo – email@example.com
Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democrat Party – Jagmeet.Singh@parl.gc.ca
Mike Farnworth, Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General – PSSG.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development – MCF.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Peter Milobar, MLA Kamloops-North Thompson – peter.milobar.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Todd Stone, MLA Kamloops-South Thompson – todd.stone.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Alison Bond, Deputy Minister of Children and Families – firstname.lastname@example.org
Adrian Dix, Minister of Health – adrian.dix.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Shirley Bond, MLA Prince George-Valemount/Opposition MoH – shirley.bond.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Karin Kirkpatrick, MLA West Vancouver-Capilano/Opposition MCFD – email@example.com
AutismBC – firstname.lastname@example.org
Autism Community Training (ACT) – email@example.com