Demolishing Their Future


Mitzi Dean announcing changes to funding options for children with autism


Paul Caune

July 4th, 2022


The recent elimination of individualized funding for children with autism will have devastating impacts, writes Paul Caune.


"DANGEROUS, DESTRUCTIVE, DEADLY"


The NDP government of BC has decided to demolish the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) individualized funding (IF) option for parents who have children with autism.


They decided to replace it with the hub system of Doug Ford's Ontario Progressive Conservatives. The hub model is being touted as "better social investment" which means, "Save money off the backs of the disabled."


This policy shift has been widely denounced, by parents of autistic children who are running Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) programs for their children and others, including by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) who called it “reckless and harmful.”


The UBCIC President Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has stated: “First Nations know better than any population that centralizing services for children in government-controlled institutions is dangerous, destructive, and even deadly."


The approach of British Columbia doubles-down on a long history of arrogant and broken government approaches to caring for vulnerable children.”



Grand Chief Stewart Phillip


This decision will be a disaster for the children currently getting treatment paid for by IF and children born with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in BC in the future.


What is IF and why will the NDP's demolition of it be a disaster for children with ASD in BC?


The MCFD until last year gave the parents of children with ASD the option to be given money to buy supports they could custom build to meet their child's unique needs. This is called individualized funding (IF).


Parents use IF to hire, train, and monitor the progress of the child-specific programs designed by a Behaviour Consultant for a child's Applied Behaviour Analysis, autism treatment program.


Only after parents took the BC Gov't to court, were some funding dollars made available to families of children with autism.


Many parents over the last twenty years have used IF to buy 1 to 1 therapy for their children that significantly mitigates the symptoms of ASD. This increases the chances these children will have a life of dignity. Research studies around the world support IF.


IF is not a cure, it's not a silver bullet, but it increases in a non-trivial way the likelihood these children will have a better life. IF gives families some relief from the huge expense of running a home-based ABA autism treatment program.


Almost all families have to subsidize funding their child's medically-necessary treatment because IF is just not enough.


Why will no longer having this option for their parents be a disaster for children with ASD?


Without this 1 to 1 treatment a child on the part of the spectrum who will most benefit from early intervention from a qualified therapist is destined to a life most Canadians refuse to think about even for a moment. Here's a glimpse.


Without the publicly funded 1 on 1 treatment:

  • Many of these children's parents will be bankrupted and/or get divorced

  • During their life some of these citizens will be handcuffed to a hospital bed

  • Or have lethal encounters with police

  • Be given away by their parents to the foster care system

  • Or get incarcerated in Long Term Care facilities

In addition to the human costs, these likely consequences will cost the taxpayers more in the long run. Hospital care, incarceration and 24 hr. group home care can be avoided by treating the autistic citizen.


Giving the autistic child treatment, gives the child skills and human dignity - they won't need someone to care for them 24 hrs. a day and they won't end up needing to be chained to a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward


A LONG STRUGGLE


The MCFD IF option existed only because of a long struggle by a small group of parents of citizens with ASD.


When these parents discovered in the late 1990s, to their justifiable shock, that the only effective treatment for ASD wasn't covered under BC's MSP, they sued the provincial government. And they won.


The NDP government of the day appealed the court's decision, which provoked outrage from the opposition Liberals, led then by Gordon Campbell. His party declared it was disgusting that the NDP were forcing parents to go to court to get support for their children with ASD.


The Liberals led voters to believe that if their party won the 2001 election, and if the BC government lost the second court decision, they would not appeal it.


The Liberals won in 2001, their government lost in the BC Court of Appeals a few months later. The Liberals then... appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) and the BC government...won.


The SCC stated even though ABA was the only effective treatment for ASD it was each province's prerogative whether ABA should be covered under their MSP.


(To see how the Auton case struggle played out in the media at the time watch this this this this this this and this. And for more see this).


But there was a partial victory from this defeat.


Their earlier defeats in court forced the BC government to start individualized funding for children with autism on a small scale.


And due to the advocacy and initiative of thousands of parents over twenty years an infrastructure of therapists has grown in BC to help give children with ASD a better future.


The NDP is now demolishing that better future.


PROMISES TO KEEP

New BC Liberal leader Kevin Falcon


Last year there was yet another strange twist in the ordeal of BC citizens with ASD, one not reported in the media to my knowledge.


In early November 2021 then leadership candidate Kevin Falcon sent an email to Liberal party members (which a source leaked to me) that stated, in part:


“Support for children with special needs is not something that should be controlled or rationed by the government."


"BC was regarded as a national leader on autism support during the BC Liberals’ time in government. As Premier, I will make sure we become that once again."


"I will reverse the clawback on individualized funding, halt the transition to hub models, and ensure funding for autism is put under the Ministry of Health"


Mr. Falcon was a Minister when the Liberals broke their promise not to appeal the second Auton case if their government lost in the BC Court of Appeals.


But if the Liberals win the next provincial election Falcon will be the boss. And it's the boss's prerogative to choose which election promises will be broken and which promises will be kept.


For the conclusion of this essay please watch this speech by Bev Sharpe, a mother of a child with ASD, that she gave fourteen years ago:



 

Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to spencer@bcdisability.com!