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MLAs CORNER: Change in autism funding unacceptable

Families will now have to travel to ‘hubs’ where a set team of professionals will provide care
Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)

Parents were blindsided last month when the NDP government announced changes to autism funding in British Columbia. It wasn’t just that they were being told that the individual funding they rely on to care for their children was being clawed back — which is unbelievable in itself — it was also that the government had made this decision without doing any sort of consultation with parents, advocates or providers.

The announcement made by Minister of Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean, touted a province-wide transition to a ‘hub’ model that will take place over the next few years. This will mean that instead of families being given individual funding for their children with autism, which they currently use to fund a personalized program of services that work best for their child, families will now have to travel to ‘hubs’ where a set team of professionals will provide care.

It’s a decision that will sever long-standing relationships between children and their service providers, upsetting usual routines and forcing children with autism to switch to new, government-provided therapists and consultants.

The hub model is particularly concerning for rural parents, as we still do not know where these hubs will be or how they will be geographically distributed. In all likelihood, rural parents will now have to travel hours to these hubs with their children, instead of being allowed the flexibility to find providers in their own communities, as is currently possible with individualized funding.

Everyone from parents to autism service providers, to advocacy groups like AutismBC have spoken out about the proposed changes, citing the unacceptable lack of consultation and the serious concerns about removing individualized funding. But despite the widespread public outcry, the NDP government has refused to walk back any of their proposed changes.

I sincerely hope that this government will soon come to its senses, change course, and engage in genuine consultation with families and providers — it’s what they should have done from day one.

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