Supporting our youth: Tuition waivers and the Youth Education Bursary

Last Friday, like so many of you, I was thrilled to hear that the Provincial Government has expanded it’s tuition waiver program to include all 25 of BC’s public post-secondary institutions. It is a step in the right direction to provide meaningful support to young people who have been in care. Beyond the actual support, this program will provide I also feel like this move reflects a positive shift in an attitude about caring for our citizens.

Our Premier had this to say about the decision, “I believe it’s the genuine power of giving people opportunity, that once someone, an individual, has hope and has people at their back, they can achieve virtually anything.”

I have to say I am hopeful about a government that has the backs of our community members. And this did not happen by accident or chance. It did not happen quickly, and it would not have happened without a concerted effort on the part of many. This is a reminder of why The Federation and many other organizations must continue to use our voices to create conditions for change. It’s a reminder of why we work with our colleagues in government to make things better for the people we serve.

In 2009 Federation members created the Youth Education Bursary to encourage and support young people to develop a career in our sector. Since 2009, the bursary program has provided over $160,000 in funds to over 130 recipients! I believe that programs such as this helped pave the way for Friday’s announcement.

The efforts of Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the steps post-secondary institutions like Vancouver Island University have taken, and the advocacy efforts of groups like Fostering Change have all contributed towards creating a climate that makes tuition waivers across the province the next logical step. When Fed members decided to raise funds so that we could welcome young people from care to work alongside us in social services you helped move this issue along the public agenda.

And of course, your organizations do this every day by providing caring support to so many people. The Fed will continue to be a place where we can creatively raise these issues in the consciousness of the greater public.

Last week’s commitment from the government was a welcome hand up for many young people, and yet we cannot rest; the challenge for youth in transition is not over. And the challenges facing many of our community members remain. This government has shown in its early days that they are sympathetic to the issues we care about.  But there will always be difficult decisions, and competing agendas, so we need to remain vigilant in our efforts to inform sound and just social policy.

If you have not already done so I encourage you to register to attend the Member’s General Meeting on Friday, October 13th. This event is open to all Federation members (full, associate and honourary). We have invited a number of social care Ministers to speak; we are pleased to confirm that Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Government House Leader, will be attending.

This will be an excellent opportunity to connect with our new government leaders, and with each other. I hope to see you there.