Part one: New investments could mean improvements for kids in care.
On Tuesday, BC’s Finance Minister released the provincial budget and pledged an additional $796 million over three years to support families, individuals, and children in need. We have been told that this investment includes a much-needed increase to services and supports for young people in care.
As I mentioned in our press releases after the budget lockup, an increase for the Ministry serving BC’s most vulnerable children and families is always welcome and perhaps a sign of the government’s commitment to do much better when it comes to kids in care.
The budget includes new money for childcare, services for children with special needs and mental health challenges. I am also hopeful that these new investments will allow further implementation of the recommendations in the Residential Review Report.
As many of you know, that report contains 32 recommendations for improving BC’s child welfare systems. It captures three years worth of consultations with social workers, community social service workers, foster parents, and children themselves.
BC’s new Representative for Children and Youth, Bernard Richard, recently noted that if more of those recommendations been implemented, young people like Alex Gervais may still be alive today. Thanks to Mr. Richard’s statements and our ongoing efforts, the report has been getting significant attention of late and this seems to have motivated the government into action.
Because in spite of what the MCFD Minister may have claimed in the legislature last week (that most of the work has already been done), the recommendations from the Residential Review Report have only been partially implemented. This is because the funds to make the required changes were never made available to MCFD.
But now it seems at least some of those funds are available. As such, we are looking forward to working with the government to make further and more substantial progress on the shared goals laid out in that report. The children of BC have waited long enough.
Part two: A strong, united voice
Earlier this week we also penned a joint statement with Aspect BC, Inclusion BC, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Disability Alliance BC, Housing Central, and the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society. You can read the news release here.
As much as we were pleased by the above-mentioned investments, the budget also left much to be desired. Many of our provincial allies were with us at the budget lockup and heard the same things we heard and noticed the same omissions we noticed.
In response, we pledged to join in one united voice calling for further increases to disability rates, more affordable housing options for people with disabilities, increased temporary income assistance rates, more and better supports for indigenous children, as well as increased funding for mental health services and employment programs.
These are some of the areas that still need attention, increased government investment, and cooperation from communities and organizations like ours.
We know what it means to be altogether better. This Federation doesn’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. There is still a ways to go and until we get there, we will stand together with our allies. We will be a strong, united voice representing all the British Columbians that still need support, help, care, and love.