Inclusion BC Executive Director Faith Bodnar speaks with Cfax1070‘s Ian Jess op about BC’s 2014 Budget and people with developmental disabilities. (Faith’s interview begins at 1:30, 30 minutes into this podcast): http://www.cfax1070.com/Media/CFAX-Podcasts/Ian-Jessop/February-19-2014-1pm

2014 BC Budget: Inclusion BC Analysis

 

Summary:
The British Columbia Minister of Finance, Michael De Jong, announced the Provincial Government’s 2014 budget on February 18, 2014.

Visit the BC Budget 2014 website to read official budget documents. Download a printable copy of our analysis. Highlights:

  • The 2014 budget includes a long-awaited substantial investment in Community Living BC over a four-year period, amounting to $219 million projected additional funding from 2014 through 2016 over previously announced funding plans. This represents a steady increase in CLBC funding which will work to address increasing caseload pressure, as more people receive CLBC-funded services. Inclusion BC expresses its appreciation to the Provincial Government for this important investment. We are pleased to see that people with disabilities and their families are front and center in the provincial budget.
  • This is the result of the extensive advocacy of families, people with developmental disabilities, and Inclusion BC, the disability community and our member agencies over the past three years. The government has heard our voices; while this increase will not come close to truly meeting needs, it is an appreciated and hopeful trend.
  • At the same time, a time when the Province is raising expectations around the province with extensive consultations that ask the public for participation in envisioning BC as the “most progressive province for people with disabilities,” it is critical for CLBC and the government to rebuild confidence and trust with the community inclusion sector.
  • It is also clear in CLBC’s service plan that the aging of people with developmental disabilities as well as their parents who provide support and a significant increase in the number of people coming forward to request services is reflected in this budget investment. The combination of these factors will, however continue to add pressure to families, community inclusion agencies and people with developmental disabilities. We will be challenged to meet basic needs – let alone catching up with the still-increasing waitlist.
  • It is critically important to address all funding gaps and move forward in the spirit of full partnership, including the government fully living up to its commitments. This includes the 3% wage increase from the 2013 collective bargaining agreement, of which the financial burden has fallen on community-based organizations and continues to strain those organizations.
  • No increases were made to Persons with Disabilities benefit rates. There is an additional $25 million in the budget for disability assistance but this is related to population growth and higher incidence of disability. Despite the rising cost of living in BC, one of the most expensive places to live in the country, our PWD rates are 6th lowest in Canada. The Budget refers to BC and Saskatchewan as the two provinces in Canada with balanced budgets; it should be noted that Saskatchewan provides up to $1100 in monthly PWD benefits, in comparison to BC’s rate of $906. Read the report, “Overdue”, released by the Disability Without Poverty Coalition, for more information.
  • The Budget notes that “the proceeds of the sale of a portion of the Pearson Dogwood hospital will fund a new care facility on that site.” The Provincial government needs to be involved in this issue beyond viewing it as a disposition of land and assets. Inclusion BC urges the Provincial Government to take a leadership role in ensuring that no new institutions shall be constructed on the Pearson Dogwood land and that what is developed on that land is innovative, represents best practices, and supports people with disabilities to live in the community – not in institutions. The Provincial Government must also compel Health Authorities to have no new admission to institutions, including George Pearson Center, and require a focus on community living supports for all people with disabilities.
  • See below for other highlights from the 2014 budget.

Children and Youth with Special Needs

  • The Ministry of Children and Family Development will see a flat-lined budget with a small investment of $15 million in children and youth with special needs directed mainly at children and youth with autism.
  • While this small investment is welcome, budget documents failed to mention or address the growing waitlists for children requiring early childhood development supports and the fact that we still do not have a handle on the size of the caseloads and waitlists. We know that children are aging out of the supports before they are able to receive what they need.
  • There are particular concerns with children and youth with special needs in care and the well-documented issues in this area. Increased coordination between MCFD and MSDSI is essential; there are some early indicators of improved coordination, but resources for transition must be assured as children age out of children’s and youth services.

Education The Ministry of Education budget was overall flat-lined over the next three years.

  • There is clearly insufficient funding in our province for the education of students. School districts across the province are in crisis. We are very concerned that there is a growing risk of segregated education in our province as students with special needs often bear the brunt ofschool district budget cuts.
  • Furthermore, underfunded schools with large class sizes do not support the learning of all students, including students with special needs. We are very concerned that the lack of classroom support and lack of funding in education is part of creating a perilous situation for students with special needs.
  • This problem is highlighted in Inclusion BC and the Family Support Institute’s 2013 report, Stop Hurting Kids, in which 200 families came forward to share their experience with the use of restraints and seclusion on students in British Columbia schools. Inclusion BC and the Family Support Institute are working to bring an end to the use of restraints and seclusion in our schools.
  • The Learning Improvement Fund saw an increase of $15 million annually. This is positive, but it is critical to ensure outcomes that improve education for students, especially those with special needs, such as educator training that will eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion.
  • Budget cuts in education place students with special needs at risk: at risk of decreased educational outcomes, lack of learning supports as educational assistants are cut, and increases in segregated and congregated education, as well as at risk of the use of restraint and seclusion. A meaningful provincial investment in education is needed to support students with special needs – and all students.

Housing There is an overall increase to the BC Housing budget, including a $58 million increase over three years for operating subsidies.

  • This is a hopeful trend in supporting social housing and accessing greater capacity of the social housing community-based sector to deliver affordable, accessible, quality housing.
  • Strengthening the non-profit housing sector means strengthening the housing sector for people with disabilities. Initiatives will not only support the social housing sector but also create opportunities for partnerships that develop innovative and inclusive housing options for people with developmental disabilities.
  • Transfer of properties to community-based organizations is positive, as it creates increased capacity and control for community organizations that are expert in doing what they do best.
  • Access to rental subsidies, part of a $150 million investment by the province which will be matched by the federal government, is particularly important. The Disability Without Poverty Coalition has called for the creation of a rental subsidy for people with disabilities in BC as a supplement to current PWD benefits.

Supports to Adults with Developmental Disabilities The 2014 budget includes a long-awaited substantial investment in Community Living BC over a four-year period, amounting to $219 million projected additional funding from 2014 through 2016 over previously announced funding plans. This represents a steady increase in CLBC funding which will work to address increasing caseload pressure, as more people receive CLBC-funded services. Inclusion BC expresses its appreciation to the Provincial Government for this important investment. We are pleased to see that people with disabilities and their families are front and center in the provincial budget.

  • There is a steady increase in contributions to CLBC, which are significantly increased from projections in the 2013 Budget. The total government contribution in 2014-15 to CLBC will be $808.7 million (as compared to a 2013 estimate of $747.2 million); in 2015-16, $816.3 million (compared to $747.7 million) and in 2016-17, $836.2 million. Most of this increased funding is directed to CLBC base funding to address increased caseload.
  • The government has assured Inclusion BC that none of these funds will be used to fund the new collective agreement, ratified February 17, and that the funding increase will instead be applied to providing services to an increased number of people.
  • This is the result of the extensive advocacy of families, people with developmental disabilities, and Inclusion BC, the disability community and our member agencies over the past three years. The government has heard our voices; while this increase will not come close to truly meeting needs, it is an appreciated and hopeful trend.
  • The new Navigator functions being introduced in CLBC will, we hope, lead to the early identification and assessment of newly eligible people and provide the foundation for realistic budget planning moving forward. At the same time, however, these are new positions being created to help people navigate government bureaucracy. Inclusion BC urges a concurrent review of CLBC policies and internal systems in order to address why families face confusion when attempting to navigate or access CLBC services. This is also critical to addressing the issues previously raised in the Deputy Minister’s 12-point plan.
  • CLBC’s service plan refers to individualized funding as an important area for innovation but the number of people accessing it remains low with only a small projected increase. The more individualized funding is truly supported, the less need there would be for positions like navigators within the system.
  • It is also clear in CLBC’s service plan that the aging of people with developmental disabilities as well as their parents who provide support as well as a significant increase in the number of people coming forward to request services are reflected in this budget investment. The combination of these factors will, however, continue to add pressure to community inclusion agencies, families and people with developmental disabilities. We will be challenged to meet basic needs – let alone catching up with the still-increasing waitlist.
  •  Respite funding is some of the best money spent by CLBC and most appreciated. Increasing respite funding would address growing waitlist pressure, keep people together with their families longer, and provide better outcomes for the person. The factors indicated above, particularly ageing, highlight the importance and necessity of respite.

Community Living BC Caseloads: Developmental Disabilities Programs:

  •  Reports are no longer presented divided between residential and day or community inclusion supports. The total reported caseload is projected to increase from 15,460 in 2013/14, to 16,260 in 2014/15, to 17,030 in 2015/16, to 17,780 in 2016/17.
  •  At the same time, there is a forecasted decrease in the average cost per client, which will go from $46,400 in 2013/14 to $46,100 in 2014/15, to $44,400 in 2015/16, to $43,500 in 2016/17.

We are concerned increasing caseloads and decreasing costs per person can only happen when existing services are cut and reduced for newly eligible individuals. This formula risks yet another round of budget cuts despite encouraging investments. Personal Supports Initiative

  • The Personal Supports Initiative, which supports adults with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder and autism, will see its caseload increase from 600 in 2013/14 to 1,150 in 2016/17 while costs per person are expected to decrease from $23,150 this year, to $19,550 by 2016.

Income Security Persons with Disabilities Benefits No increases were made to Persons with Disabilities benefit rates. There is an additional $25 million in the budget for disability assistance but this is related to population growth and higher incidence of disability. Despite the rising cost of living in BC, one of the most expensive places to live in the country, our PWD rates are 6th lowest in Canada. The Budget refers to BC and Saskatchewan as the two provinces in Canada with balanced budgets; it should be noted that Saskatchewan provides up to $1100 in monthly PWD benefits, in comparison to BC’s rate of $906. Read the report, “Overdue”, released by the Disability Without Poverty Coalition, for more information.

  •   68% of people receiving income assistance have disabilities in British Columbia.

Other This budget indicates that after a consistently flatlined budget and financial crisis in legal aid services, the province is planning to invest $2 million annually in legal aid services in criminal and family law matters, particularly important to people with developmental disabilities and their families who are living in poverty or otherwise require legal aid support. Summary “The significant investment in this budget reflects the unprecedented and relentless advocacy of people with developmental disabilities, their families, and community organizations for the past three years, and Inclusion BC is very pleased to be a part of this. The government has heard our voices – but we know that this investment will not fully meet needs,” said Faith Bodnar, Executive Director of Inclusion BC. The government is engaged in an extensive consultation process, seeking input to build the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities. It is critical, as we move forward into the projected years 2 and 3 of this budget, that this input is fully honoured with the necessary investments and decisions to build a truly inclusive province.