April 6, 2020: Inclusion BC Advocacy Brief

Priorities for Vulnerable BC Children and Families during COVID-19

We are pleased the Ministry for Children and Family Development (MCFD) has announced the Emergency Relief Support Fund for children and youth with special needs and their families. This is a solid start and will help many families during the COVID-19 emergency. We are also pleased the ministry is going to be “more flexible” with its policy guidelines. This flexibility will help families get the emergency support they need.

The Challenge for Families
Vulnerable BC children, youth, and families primarily access provincial supports through their schools, childcare, and community programs. Most of these have abruptly closed or severely limited operations due to COVID-19. This has cut off critical family lifelines, supports, and connections, placing an extraordinary 24/7 burden on families already struggling with other major socioeconomic, health, and mental health stresses. Impacts include health and safety risks, further exclusion, marginalization, and social isolation.

The concerns we hear from families require immediate, targeted interim relief measures, along with clear messaging that more help is on the way while we work through more complex solutions.

It is critical that we take the time to understand each family’s unique situation to tailor a response that meets their current and future needs through this crisis. Families need continuity of existing supports and/or access to changing supports depending on how they are impacted by the pandemic and COVID-19 measures. Families are looking for clear simple answers, support, resources, help navigating a rapidly shifting context, and connection. 

Three Priorities
Inclusion BC has identified 3 priorities that require cross-ministerial collaboration:

#1 Priority – Health & Safety: Identify and prioritize ways to replace critical supports lost due to school, program, and service closures, and to mitigate new risks due to COVID-19 health measures (24/7 home confinement) and broader socioeconomic disruptions.

#2 Priority – Inclusive Learning: Home schooling and distance teaching are challenging at any time, but especially so for students with learning differences, who face added barriers, and for parents/ educators with less training, support, and resources.

#3 Priority – Social Connections: Schools, daycares, and community programs play an especially critical role in providing socialization opportunities for children with disabilities and other vulnerable groups who are often excluded from informal community activities.

We recognize this is just a start and want to work with families, communities, and government to ensure all BC children, youth, and families are safe and supported through these difficult times.

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