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New B.C. premier reverses autism funding overhaul

Advocates are celebrating David Eby's decision to maintain individualized autism funding.
B.C. is no longer phasing out individualized autism funding.

B.C.'s new Premier David Eby has decided to keep individualized autism funding and pause the transition toward a "hub model" for providing services to special needs children.

This new announcement reverses a previous decision to open 40 one-stop-shop hubs to support children with a variety of special needs. The hubs were intended to give the "best care" for all children, including those who currently don't have individualized support.  

The province had also promised a no-wait system that would treat children who have yet to be diagnosed.

The decision to overhaul individualized autism funding was opposed by 34 autism-related organizations, and according to AutismBC's report, only four per cent of parents and caregivers felt the hub system would best meet their children's needs.

It appears that advocates' concerns have now been heard.

According to the provincial government's announcement on Friday afternoon, it has decided to maintain individualized funding rather than phasing it out. It is also putting a pause on the roll-out of the hub system and will be evaluating the four hubs that were already launched. 

The provincial government has also committed to partnering with First Nations leadership, the Representative for Children and Youth and disability community leaders for a two-year engagement process to develop a new system of support.

New investments will also be made in the interim to support children with disabilities and underserved needs.

“It has been a very tumultuous year for thousands of families across the province,” said Kaye Banez, AutismBC board president and Richmond parent.

“There were many times when our advocacy seemed like an impossible mountain to climb, but as a community we stayed the course, adapted, and kept on navigating through the very challenging terrain.”

Banez had previously voiced her concerns with The Richmond News, which included the lack of information on how the new hub system would roll out and the possibility of it being "too generalized." She was also worried the new system would take away parents’ ability to choose their children’s service providers.

“(The new system) could be very, very traumatic for children and families,” she had said.

Banez, along with other advocates, is breathing a sigh of relief after Eby's latest decision.

“We thank Premier David Eby for receiving our report and his commitment to adequately supporting the families of children with disabilities and support needs,” said Banez.

With files from Maria Rantanen

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