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Rally planned at B.C. Legislature to protest autism funding changes

A rally is planned for the lawns of the legislature to protest changes to the province’s autism funding model.

It’s scheduled for Wednesday, November 24th at 11:00am.

Critics are calling on the NDP government to reverse its recent decision ​to end direct funding for children with autism by 2025.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberals are calling on the NDP to “commit to full consultation with parents and service providers in the autism community.”

“It’s deeply unsettling that the NDP, without any consultation, is taking ​away the ability for parents to decide on care for their children,” said Karin Kirkpatrick, BC Liberal Critic for children, family development and childcare. 

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“Phasing out individualized funding will only create another waitlist, making families compete against one another for resources and services in a system they are already struggling with.” 

The Liberals say thousands have signed an online petition “calling for the government to develop a fair and transparent plan, ​and to keep individual​ized autism funding program in place.”

However, in an Oct. 27th release the NDP says the new service will provide supports for children and youth based on their unique needs, with or without a diagnosis.

Under the new approach, the province says children, youth and their families “will be able to access information, expert intervention and therapies at new one-stop family connections hubs.”

These supports and services will be available from birth to age 19 and will be based on a child’s or youth’s individual needs, regardless of whether they have a referral or diagnosis. 

As a first step, hubs will open in two areas – the Northwest and Central Okanagan – starting in 2023 before being launched provincewide in 2024.

The province says that when the two new hubs are available, parents and caregivers who are getting individualized autism funding and school-age extended therapy benefits “will have the option to continue with the supports they have, or to instead opt into the new hub services and supports.”

This choice will remain in place until 2025 when hubs will be available provincewide and individualized funding is phased out.

According to the province, the new system will provide help to approximately 8,300 more children and their families, “representing a 28 percent increase in the number of children who will be able to access disability supports and services.”

Critics say that taking away specific funding and setting up a system is not acceptable.

Coordinated protests are being planned around the province with more info coming soon from ASD Engagement and Advocacy.

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