I continued my questions to the Minister of Children and Family Development asking why she continues to ignore families who want the government to maintain individual supports while investing $25 million this year in building a hub system that has failed in Ontario instead of investing it directly in the families in crisis.
In January, the Times Colonist published an editorial from Cathy Nash regarding the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s decision to take back individual funding for children with autism and, instead, create so-called hubs. We’ve heard the strong opposition to this plan, and we know that Indigenous leaders are taking control of child welfare, making much of what MCFD does redundant.
Nash advanced this theory. “Faced with a loss of power in coming years, they want to centralize all services for children with special needs in their own buildings, with greater roles for their own staff.” Nash continues: “Instead of more buildings and wait-lists and more policies about how to manage those wait-lists, MCFD should increase the reach of individual funding for more children. Instead of trying to tear some families down, they could build up more families.”
Why hasn’t the Minister of Children and Family Development listened to these parents and, rather than entrenching bureaucracy, increased the funding to directly support families of neurodiverse children?
Hon. M. Dean:
Thank you to the member for the question. I would like to take this opportunity to make sure that everybody is aware that the new services in the new system that’s going to be delivered provincially to support all children and youth with support needs is going to be delivered by community agencies — agencies who know their community and who know how to deliver services to families in their communities.
Member. Members, please.
Hon. M. Dean:
Budget 2022 signalled the first step in moving towards this new system with an investment of $172 million over the next three years so that we can lay the groundwork for building this really important system to serve British Columbia’s vulnerable children and youth.
Member for Saanich North and the Islands, supplemental.
A classic response to child welfare in this province is to find a broken plan from somewhere else and try it here to see if we can make it work. The new plan to grow the Ministry of Children and Families won’t be in place until 2025. There are a lot of concerns about a lack of clarity on the plan. It seems like this ministry hasn’t mapped out how the system works and is instead leaving families in the dark.
In other jurisdictions that have moved to a family hubs model, they’ve done it as a way to keep costs down. Julia Boyle, the executive director of Autism B.C., said:
“One only needs to look at Ontario, where Social Services Minister Todd Smith recently announced their hub-based model failed, and they need to go back and redesign their approach. In the absence of a substantial increase in funding and service providers, the MCFD is likely to rely on gatekeeping procedures”.
While children are suffering, this Minister of Children and Families is engaged in bureaucratic shuffling. The minister says children need more services but must fund and deliver it, not spend millions of dollars reorganizing and disrupting services to our children. Families are experiencing crisis right now. Instead of giving and investing $25 million into a make-work project for a ministry seeking relevance, wouldn’t it be better to invest that money now in actual supports for children with disabilities?
Hon. M. Dean:
Every year since we formed government in 2017, our government has made choices and invested more funding into the Ministry of Children and Family Development. In fact, Budget 2022 included an historic, first-time investment in a cross-government system of supports for young people leaving the system of government care.
I’d like to reassure families that we are listening to them. We’re continuing our engagement sessions.
Members. Let the minister continue.
Hon. M. Dean:
Nothing is changing immediately. We’re investing in early implementation areas and will continue working with service providers and community agencies as we make that transformation.
We are a different government here in British Columbia. We listen to British Columbian families, where our values are to make the choices of investing in children and youth. Our government makes the choices of investing in families, unlike other governments and unlike the other side when they were in government.