Finance Committee: BC Budget Consultations 2020

Committee Recommends: Invest in Inclusion!

The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services has released its unanimous report for the province’s 2020 Budget. Inclusion BC submitted a brief to the Committee in June 2019. The Committee has adopted and recognized many of our recommendations, priorities and concerns which we submitted in our report: Invest In Inclusion.

Ending Waitlists for Children and Youth with Special Needs

In our brief, we noted that there are long waitlists across our province for children who need early intervention and supported child development services. Unfortunately, many children wait so long for critical early supports that they do not get it at all. We asked the committee to recommend that the government, “Eliminate waitlists for children and youth with a funding increase of $30 million per year for the Supported Child Development Program.”

The Committee acknowledged that a lack of funding for early intervention services creates long waits for children and families needing support. They recognized that increased base funding for non-profit agencies that provide programs and services would help children and youth with special needs. The Committee made the following recommendations to help provide timely access to early intervention services for children and youth with special needs:

79. Increase funding for all early intervention services to ensure timely access to critical services, such as speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, and to ensure children do not age out of early intervention services before receiving critical support.

80. Provide ongoing and appropriate funding to ensure that children and families in BC can access publicly-funded early years mental health services.

Save the At Home Program

The At Home Program provides much-needed support for children to live at home with their families, but it has not received an increase in funding for three decades. We asked the committee to “Save the At Home Program by increasing funding by at least 79% to match actual costs incurred by families supporting their children.”

The committee acknowledged our request, which was initiated by BC Parents of Complex Kids, and wrote:

The At Home Program was a specific focus of some submissions, with two submissions noting that the program has not been reviewed in many years. They referred to a report prepared by the BC Parents of Complex Kids for information on potential improvements. Inclusion BC also observed that there has been little to no investment in the funding structure since the At Home program was established over 30 years ago, and that some parents consider putting their children into care so they can receive the support services they need. They recommended increasing funding for the At Home Program by at least 79 percent to match actual costs incurred by families.

The Committee made the unanimous recommendation:

81. Increase funding for the At Home program.

Although the Committee did not specify the amount of the increase, we expect it will be substantial given the significant needs of these children and their families.

Increased funding for Community Living BC (CLBC)

In our brief, we expressed our deep concern about CLBC’s limited financial capacity to meet the needs of youth with intellectual disabilities and their families across B.C. We recommended two increased to CLBC global budget for 2020:

  • Providing support to people backlogged from the 2019 waitlists by providing a 10% increase to CLBC’s global budget for 2020.
  • Providing timely support to people requesting community living services by budgeting a 6% increase to CLBC’s global budget for 2021 and 2022.

The Committee acknowledged our concerns about the inadequate fund which were also expressed by family members who spoke to the Committee about their experiences supporting young adults with disabilities. The committee wrote:

Anastasia Butcher and Lenora Spencer, parents of young adults with disabilities, shared their experiences supporting their children with transitioning from youth to adult supports provided through Community Living BC (CLBC). Anastasia Butcher stated that they experienced a reduction in services and that CLBC is inadequately funded to meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities; this in turn affects their ability to be contributing members of society. Inclusion BC echoed the need for increased funding to CLBC, particularly the need to increase CLBC’s supported living budget which supports CLBC clients in the move to independent living.

The Committee acknowledged the need for increased funding made the specific recommendation to:

82. Increase Community Living BC’s global budget.

Inclusive Housing

We submitted two key recommendations to help provide flexible, inclusive housing options for people with disabilities.

  • Support CLBC clients who are waiting to move into their own homes by providing $1 million of funding per year for portable rental supplements from BC Housing.
  • Support the move to independent living for 800-1000 people each year by increasing CLBC’s supported living budget by $20 million per year for the next 3 years

Unfortunately, the Committee did not adopt these recommendations

Recruitment & Retention

We told the Committee that the community living service sector is facing an unprecedented recruitment and retention crisis. We urged the government to support a fair compensation rate for the entire sector and asked the committee to allocate an additional $10 million in funding to meet the recruitment and training needs of agencies, and of families supporting people through individualized funding. The Committee acknowledges this and responded.

The Committee also heard about recruitment and retention challenges within the sector. B.C. CEO Network, a network of CEOs of community social services agencies, and Archway Community Services, noted that the low wage redress program has caused inequities as union and non-union employees receive different rates of pay for delivering the same community services. The Canadian Union of Public Employees British Columbia recommended pursuing wage parity, and Inclusion BC suggested the development of an equitable recruitment and retention strategy.

The Committee’s specific recommendation to address the recruitment and retention crisis in B.C.’s community services sectors is to:

84. Fund adequate training, professional development, compensation, equipment and other incentives to recruit and retain workers in the social services sector.

Poverty Reduction and Social Assistance

We told the Committee that bringing people with disabilities out of poverty requires a significant investment to increase disability benefit rates to at least $1500 per month and index rates to the cost of living. This sentiment was echoed by many others. The committee acknowledged the statements that even with the recent small increases to income and disability assistance rates, that they still remain well below the poverty line. Unfortunately, the committee did not recommend an increase in disability assistance rates. Instead, they recommended a review of the framework for earnings exemptions, so that people receiving disability assistance could have the opportunity to earn more income without losing their support.

Committee Recommendations

We are pleased that the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services has accepted many of the recommendations which we submitted. Here is a list of the five committee recommendations which the committee recommended:

  • 79. Increase funding for all early intervention services to ensure timely access to critical services, such as speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, and to ensure children do not age out of early intervention services before receiving critical support.
  • 80. Provide ongoing and appropriate funding to ensure that children and families in BC can access publicly-funded early years mental health services.
  • 81. Increase funding for the At Home program.
  • 82. Increase Community Living BC’s global budget.
  • 84. Fund adequate training, professional development, compensation, equipment and other incentives to recruit and retain workers in the social services sector.