A report released on Thursday by B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth has identified gaps in support arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of British Columbians, who rely on these supports, have identified problems accessing vital treatments, therapies, respite and specialized recreational activities. The report comes after the representative’s office conducted surveys in November 2020 and received responses from nearly 550 families of children and youth with special needs, the BCGEU said.
According to the report, “many families of children and youth with special needs aren’t able to access any supports, because their children’s needs or diagnoses do not meet CYSN eligibility criteria. The criteria excludes children and youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and complex behavioural needs.”
Among the calls to action, the BCGEU [B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union] supports moves to:
- Rapidly develop and roll out a family-engaged, plain-language communication strategy in the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), modelled on the family-engaged model used by Community Living BC throughout the pandemic.
- Review the virtual service provision of child development services to CYSN families during the pandemic’s first wave to identify promising practices and weak points for improvement.
- Streamline approval processes for all CYSN funding streams and emergency benefits, with an objective of reducing paperwork for families and confirming that all approval processes are viable even during the mass disruption of a pandemic.
“Additionally, the BCGEU is calling for better communication with MCFD and for more attention paid to caseloads. We have tried to engage the ministry to address the shortcomings that cause workers to leave their jobs or suffer from burnout,” said Judy Fox-McGuire, Vice President of BCGEU’s component 6, which represents social workers.
“MCFD was to have had a comprehensive plan in place by fall 2019, and to have sought necessary funding by April 2020,” she said. “This has not happened. To date, a draft framework has been produced with no specific action plan and no evidence of new funding on the horizon. The COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the deep inadequacies, inequities and frailties of CYSN services.”
The mandate letter given to MCFD minister Mitzi Dean calls for the ministry to improve support for families of children with special needs, ensuring that the new Child and Youth with Special Needs framework is designed to serve the needs of a broad range of families.
The BCGEU said it is looking forward to having those conversations with the ministry and offering the perspective of front-line workers on the implementation of that framework.