Victoria’s autism support providers blinded by provincial funding changes – Vancouver Island Free Daily


Several Greater Victoria autism support services say a recently announced provincial funding change will hurt them and the families they serve.

At the end of October, the Ministry of Child and Family Development revealed plans to cut individual funding for children with autism by 2025 and replace it with a platform model for children with all kinds of health needs. support.

It came as a shock to families and service providers who had no idea that a change was going to happen. The ministry conducted an engagement process in 2019 with 1,500 people across British Columbia – none of them in Greater Victoria – to assess gaps in disability supports, but never consulted families or service providers about the hub model in particular.

Under the current funding model, families receive $ 22,000 per year for children with autism under six and $ 6,000 per year for children six to 18. have emerged across British Columbia to provide these children with a variety of different therapies and services.

Now these companies have no idea if they will exist in three years. The ministry told them they would have the option of bidding for the hubs or might be able to serve as subcontractors, but many cannot afford to run an entire hub and do not want to sacrifice their carefully formed practices. for a general government model.

“It seems they actually have no idea what they’re talking about or what they’re getting themselves into,” said Carla Willock, clinical director of the Victoria Speech and Language Center.

She bought commercial property before the ad fell with the intention of expanding her center, but with 60% of her income coming from the 200 autistic children she serves, Willock now has no idea how she works. will afford it.

Shantelle Soto, who supports more than 100 autistic children at Stepping Stones Therapy in Saanich, said her center is at risk of losing 95% of its income.

However, it is about more than losing their businesses. Willock and Soto said they and their therapists have spent years bonding and growing with their clients. Public funding, while not free from flaws, has allowed parents to choose where to take their children and what types of therapy and support work best, Willock said. She fears that a hub model will give them much less variety.

“It scares us that big and huge companies could come in and win these models and not really know how to serve this population,” she said.

Another concern is the needs-based model that the ministry has promised. Both Willock and Soto are concerned that this is a code for less funding for low support needs – “high end” children.

“I guess half of the clients I work with right now won’t see any service because there won’t be funding for them,” Soto said.

Asked about it in an interview with Black Press Media, Child and Family Development Minister Mitzi Dean simply said that every child will receive the support they need.

One of the main reasons for the new model is to ensure that more children – 8,300 in particular – receive support, Dean said. Currently, families of children without a diagnosis of autism cannot apply for funding, and those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or Down Syndrome, for example, do not receive enough to pay for it. their needs.

Providing support for all children is something Willock and Soto both agree with, but neither is sure the hub model will achieve it.

Both women are concerned that the centers will result in much higher overhead costs and less funding for the children.

Dean declined to say whether the ministry would increase funding to meet this 8,300 – 30 percent – increase in children he intends to support, saying she cannot comment on future budgets. She expressed confidence in the ability of the ministry to staff the centers.

Asked about letters written to him by 34 BC disability support organizations and the First Nations Leadership Council, all expressing dismay at the decision, Dean said the ministry would consult with stakeholders over the course of of the new year.

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