Since 1982, Shuswap Children’s Association has been delivering services to young children in the Shuswap.
But rising costs have outstripped provincial funding and the association is looking for community support by holding a raffle to cover the costs of providing critical services to young children.
The Ministry of Children and Families offers a different viewpoint.
“Currently, we help support the association with more than $1.15 million in contracts. This includes increases in 2018 of $50,000 in base funding and $50,000 in one-time-only funding, with a further $50,000 in service contracts on the way,” notes a Nov. 16 email.
But Children’s Association executive-director June Stewart, says in the past six years ending March 31, 2018, the association had received only a 14-per-cent increase in funding from the ministry and 8.5 per cent was mandated for wages, leaving only 5.5 per cent for increased services.
The one-time funding for 2018 was mandated to go towards the purchase of equipment rather than the increase in service the association requested, she says.
“In that same time, 34 per cent more children are getting service and we’re finding the needs are more complex,” says pointing out the delivery of multiple services has gone up by 46 per cent. “The board tries to stay very much within the parameters of what we’re funded for and we see other programs that we should be delivering but they are not being covered by the government.”
Stewart says there are wait lists for every single program the association runs, and a new program for children with autism will be added in January.
“We do so much; in essence we provide services to children with developmental delays or disabilities,” Stewart says. “That’s a prime part of what we do and under that umbrella are many different programs.”
The province funds only 15 hours a week each for a physical and an occupational therapist – for children under six years of age in the entire Shuswap region.
One of the therapists is providing service to 43 children and the other has 44 children. And they each have 15 to 18 children waiting for service.
“These are government-funded programs and the funding hasn’t changed for years and years; our population is growing but we’re not getting funding to keep pace,” she says.
A family support worker has been at the top of the Children’s Association list of must-haves.
“It has been at the top of our list for years and years and despite our pleas, the province wouldn’t fund it, so we’ve turned to raffles, etc. to keep the position two-days-a week,” Stewart says, noting research indicates for every $1 spent on early intervention saves $10 later. “She has 14 children on her active case load and 16 on a waiting list. There’s more on the waiting list than we can help.”
Stewart has approached Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, who has promised to discuss the issue when he returns to Victoria next week.
“June continues to bring y attention to this and I think part of the problem is that funding is based on region rather than on population,” he says. “I know needs probably do outstrip the funding available but there are choices available about where it goes.”
Meanwhile, funds raised through the raffle, which closes on Nov. 23, will also go towards the $70,000 needed for lease-hold improvements for the new autism program and for The Loft, which will be located in the new Family Resource Centre building located on Marine Park Drive.
The raffle features several “funtastic” prizes: a one-year, touchless laser car wash package worth $500 at Ian Gray Salmon Arm GM, a $470 gift certificate to Aqua Soleil Body & Wellness Spa, $100 gift certificates to Sandbar, Boston Pizza, Andiamo, Yan’s and Home Restaurant, two general admission passes to the Salmar Grand Theatre for one year worth $936 and a $500 detailing package at Auto Quest.
Tickets are three for $10 and are available from board or staff members. Pop into the Children’s Association office at 240 Shuswap St. NE or e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will put your info on the ticket stubs. Call 250-833-0164 ext. 0 for the password. Tickets will also be available at the Silverbacks game Friday, Nov. 16, at both Salmon Arm Askew’s locations on Saturday Nov. 17 and at Downtown Askew’s Thursday, Nov. 22.
Winners will be drawn at the Today’s Children Tomorrow’s Future event at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort that features two dynamic speakers on child development on Friday, Nov. 23. Winners will be advised by phone if they are not in attendance.