Shuswap Children’s Association executive director June Stewart looks over flyers for the various services and programs the organization continues to offer despite rising costs and insufficient funding. (File photo)

Shuswap children’s organizations offer mixed reviews on Budget 2019

Concern over long waitlists, early intervention funding, but relief child care funds are included

Waiting lists that far outstrip available funding are not likely to improve anytime soon.

Shuswap Children’s Association executive director June Stewart said it appears there will be no additional resources to help address the Shuswap’s growing population and lengthy waitlists in this week’s provincial budget.

Since 1982, the association has been delivering services to young children in the Shuswap.

But the association had received only a 14 per cent increase in provincial funding over the past six years, of which 8.5 per cent was mandated for wages. This left only 5.5 per cent for increased services.

Read more: Need outstrips funds at Shuswap Children’s Association

This has forced the association to turn to fundraising on occasion in order to boost its coffers.

With the need for services growing and, in many cases becoming more complex, Stewart was hopeful this week’s budget would bring some relief.

But she said, there are no details available on how the $74 million budgeted for mental health and addictions services for children, youth and young adults will be implemented.

“Our provincial association of child development centres will be working with both Ministry of Children and Families (MCFD) and Ministry of Mental Health & Addiction in the upcoming months to provide input on how these funds should be invested,” she said. “Despite the recommendations in the budget consultation process, we were very disappointed to see that there was no additional funding specified in Budget 2019 to provided a much-needed increase in funds for early intervention therapies.”

Read more: Childcare crisis looms over B.C. Interior

Stewart is hopeful too, that the $6 million in new funding for respite services may provide a small lift for families as rates have been frozen for many years.

In terms of childcare funding, Karen Bubola, manager of Shuswap Day Care, is pleased childcare is included in the budget as it had been missing for several years.

She said a funding increase of almost $200 million in the government’s 10-year universal child care commitment, with $366 million to expand access to quality, affordable child care and invest in early childhood educators is promising.

“My understanding is the Child Opportunity Benefit will replace the current $100 per month for children under six, increase the amount a bit and extend it for an additional 12 years until the child is 18,” she said. “That is huge, that will support families, but I’m just kind of worried about what it means for middle-income families, the ones that are really struggling to get by.”


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