All children have the right to grow to be responsible, contributing citizens in their own unique way. For some children, such as those with special needs, this may require additional supports and services to help families build capacity and ensure children develop to their true potential. These supports and services are critical, and there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating appropriate investment in such services in the early years indeed results in fewer resources required later in life. There is no argument; this is a positive return on investment both financially and morally. Unfortunately, our current provincial government has made a decision that places this investment at risk in the name of short-term financial savings.
Two collective agreements were ratified this year that directly impact many agencies that provide these critical supports and services. These agreements have resulted in significant increased costs yet government has decided to not provide the funding, forcing agencies to find the necessary savings internally. These agencies have already been operating for years with no increase in base contract funding despite a variety of rising operating expenses. There is simply no more room within their budgets to find funds to offset these increased expenses. Agencies are being forced to cut professional-development budgets, not fill existing vacancies, and shift away from family-centred service delivery models in order to balance their budgets without reducing the existing level of service to children and youth with special needs. These are short-term solutions that will result in an inhibited ability to deliver services that are evidence based and best practice, negatively impact retention of staff, and make services less accessible for families. There is a real risk of decreased capacity leading to increased wait times and growing wait lists for services. Children will not receive the timely evidence-based intervention they deserve impacting their ability to reach their full potential, and ensuring more investment will be necessary on services later in life.
Let your MLA know that services for children and youth with special needs are not the place to find further savings to balance the budget. The children and youth with special needs in your community are counting on you.
BC Association for Child Development and Intervention