(Needpix.com)

(Needpix.com)

Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Children with special needs and their families are doing worse during the second wave of the pandemic than they did in the early months, according to Jennifer Charlesworth, the Representative for Children and Youth in B.C.

In a report released Thursday (Dec. 3), Charlesworth’s office said the “COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of our support systems for children and youth, exacerbating long-standing problems and layering on new ones.”

Charlesworth said measures need to be taken immediately, but acknowledged there was “no instant fix.” She said it was impossible to address only COVID-19 related issued, but that the approach would have to fix longterm issues with the system.

The report found that while there was some financial pandemic support, it “got off to a slow start.” Charlesworth’s office said that the $225 per month emergency benefit for children and youth with special need reached only half of the 2,672 families that were eligible.

“The benefit was prioritized for families deemed eligible for specific children and youth with special need family support services but not yet receiving them, but in some cases, families already receiving a service also received the benefit. However, the program was extended in July, and 2,581 families received it in that second period,” the report stated.

The report recommended a number of measures for immediate support, which included a more flexible, less rigid approach to aid. The report recommended extending all pandemic-related support until fall 2021 and “roll out a plain-language communication strategy” for the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Further recommendations included designating family caretakers as essential workers to make sure they can access all services even during lockdowns and heightened restrictions as well as funding and developing programs to replace those that children lost from school and community based groups.

Charlesworth said “the level of desperation and the sense of urgency” stood out the feedback her office received from families of children and youth, with the risk that some families with no respite during the pandemic may need to place their children in foster care.

“Families are hanging out by a thread. They are absolutely spent,” she said.

More to come.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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