Government change to autism funding plan a win for kids

Autism HUB plan scrapped

Over the last year, I have been standing up for children with autism and their families.

Last October, the B.C. government announced it would change its autism funding model from individualized parent-directed funding to a HUB model.

Right now, parents are able to direct funds towards personalized programs and therapies. A HUB model of care means children would access care through community centres and parents would have less control over what programs and therapies are available to them. This is a model of care that Ontario switched to a few years ago.

Waitlists have skyrocketed and tripled there, children are not getting the necessary care and are falling through the cracks, advocacy groups are calling for a shift back to individualized funding models, and families are literally moving out of Ontario to get better resources for their children.

Ontario has become chaotic in its delivery of care. This HUB system is a disaster.

This would be a devastating change for families with children with autism, and the announcement last October from Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development, sent traumatizing shockwaves through the community. There is no time for mistakes in the life of a child.

We know that early intervention and care can mean the difference between independent successful living in adulthood, or dependency for life for some.

Is the individualized funding model perfect? No, there are changes needed.

For example, all children with neuro diversity need treatment and care. Right now the individualized funding model only includes for those with autism. This definition needs to be expanded. Additionally, funding only happens with diagnosis and currently, diagnostic rofessionals have tremendous waitlists. But once you have the diagnosis, the funding can be targeted specifically to the needs of the child with autism.

So what should have been fixed?

An expansion of the individualized funding to all children of neuro diversity and an expansion of the number of diagnostic professionals. Instead of making those adjustments, the government changed the model into a one-size-fits all and only if you can get in.

Thankfully all of that changed this last week.

The government under new Premier David Eby, reversed course and went back to individualized care, making the announcement on a Friday, without a news conference. Just a video from the premier’s office.

Parents of children with autism advocatied for more than a year. Protests on the steps of the Legislative Assembly, letters, petitions, tears, and meetings with each MLA that would meet with them were held.

Along with my B.C. Liberal colleagues, I have listened and we were active in our opposition to the proposed changes, asking the minister responsible and the government to reconsider and listen to the families. That is the job of his Majesty’s loyal Opposition, to demand more explanation on government decisions, laws and regulation and to find the cracks and be the voice of people affected by all that government does, or doesn’t do.

The goal of the Opposition is to improve legislation and outcomes for all British Columbians.

And we have. We have stood at those rallies, spoken, advocated, asked questions in the Legislative Assembly, delivered speeches, and sounded the alarm bell.

The changes that the government was in the process of making were wrong and we echoed the voices and became the loud horn to tell government about it. That is our job.

So in my view, this was a win. It was a win for the Opposition because government had to back down. It was a win for parents who have been re-traumatized over the last year not knowing how they were going to get the resources needed for their child. But the real winners are the children.

And that’s why I love my job.

My question to you is this:

What would you like the opposition to focus on next?

I love hearing from you. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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