ACT continues to receive questions from parents and professionals confused about the new service the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is planning as of July 1, 2017. This service will replace those ACT has been providing under contract to MCFD since 2005, including the individualized information and support function provided by ACT’s Information Officers and administration of the Registry of Autism Service Providers.
ACT has requested that MCFD provides details of their plan directly to the autism community, to enhance the transparency of this process. The lack of information makes it difficult for families to ask questions of election candidates about whether they support this initiative.
The results of the independent survey ‘Identifying Need, Delivering Service – The Autism Community Satisfaction Survey Report’ commissioned by ACT and released in April indicates that only 9% of the 1600 respondents support a move of services to MCFD. ACT is especially worried that many vulnerable families, aboriginal and immigrant families in particular, may decide not to approach this new service because it is part of MCFD.
Here are some of the questions that parents and professionals tell ACT that they want answers to:
- When is the B.C. government going to provide details of this new service? (ACT was informed in December 2016 that the Request for Proposals for our current contract was cancelled)
- Can the government explain why the service is being taken over by government instead of being maintained by a community-based organization? Is this to save money?
- Can the government explain why families and professionals were not consulted about whether they want this service to be provided by government, rather than a community-based provider?
- Will the service be arms’ length from government; can callers expect unbiased support even if they have complaints about government services, policies or employees?
- What commitments will the B.C. government make to ensuring that this service remains arms’ length from child protection service and the Autism Funding Branch so that families can be assured of confidentiality?
- If a parent makes a complaint about a government service, including the Autism Funding Branch, will this put their autism funding in jeopardy?
- If a parent calls this new service and discloses that they have inadvertently done something that transgresses Autism Funding Branch policy, will they be penalized? (ACT’s services are confidential).
- Will the new service respond to calls from school personnel, service providers and medical specialists asking for help to support families? (ACT’s staff responds to all callers.)
- Will the new service answer questions from/about adults with autism? (Currently some 12% of ACT’s contacts are from adults or parents of adults).
- Will the new service be prepared to help families advocate when they feel they are being treated unfairly by:
- MCFD child protection services;
- a school district;
- the forensic psychiatric system;
- a landlord or a private service provider?
(ACT’s staff provides advice on letter writing, attends meetings and provides referrals to lawyers.)
- Will this new service implement a rigorous complaints process to protect families taken advantage of by unscrupulous professionals on the Registry of Autism Service Providers? (ACT has not been empowered to take action against providers who repeatedly violate the trust of families who provide them access to their child’s autism funding.)
- Will this new service commit to giving all RASP Professionals the opportunity to provide profiles of their work? (Parents and professionals support this but ACT has not had funding to expand this service).
- Where will this new office be located – will it be possible to drop-in?
- Will there be community outreach with information tables at public events?
- Given the difficulties with navigating the MCFD website, how will MCFD ensure that families will have the online access they need?
- How is this service going to be different from MCFD’s current service delivery system which families complain is unresponsive to their concerns?
- ACT’s staff depends on the Autism Information Database search tool for access to over 2,000 resources. Will the new service continue providing this resource? (ACT will fundraise to continue supporting the information resources but will not have the staff to maintain over 1,000 community resources).