Premier David Eby has announced the province is scrapping plans to eliminate individualized funding for children with an autism diagnosis.
The news, announced in a Friday (Nov. 25) press release, marks an about-turn on a plan announced in October 2021 which would see such funding phased out in 2025 in favour of a controversial needs-based system.
Eby also announced the province is committed to engaging in deeper consultations with parents, caregivers, First Nations, Indigenous Peoples, experts, and practitioners in order to better understand how the current system can be improved.
“Every child in B.C. should have the supports they need to thrive,” said Eby. “We are focused on listening to families of children and youth with support needs. We will work collaboratively with all partners to make sure our services work for every child.”
The change comes after protests by parents and caregivers against the proposed cuts – which organizations like Autism BC had described as a “disappointment,” and which was poised to cost taxpayers $172 million over three years, according to the province’s 2022 budget released in February.
“Many families will be incredibly relieved to know they can keep their direct autism funding and the service providers that support their autistic children,” said Autism BC executive director Julia Boyle in the province’s news release.
“We thank the premier for listening to these families and respecting this choice. Much more work needs to be done to better serve the families and children that are left behind in the current Children and Youth with Support Needs framework. We look forward to doing this work together.”
Eby’s announcement – which followed a meeting with Mitzi Dean, minister of children and family development, representatives of the First Nations Leadership Council, Autism BC, and B.C’s representative for children and youth – also included a pause on the rollout of the province’s plan to establish a network of family connection centres.
The exception to the above will be four pilot projects already scheduled for launch and new interim investments into the existing system while the new system is being developed.
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