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B.C. Budget: Transition to controversial autism funding model to cost $172M

Province says funding to help cover costs of essential medical equipment, transition
B.C. moving to a community hub model for those with autism and other support needs will cost $172 million over three years. Participants at an event outside the B.C. legislature on Feb. 9 that called for the province to end its planned phase-out of individualized autism funding. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Moving away from individualized funding model for families with neurodiverse children will cost $172 million over three years as B.C. transitions to delivering services through a “needs-based” community hub model.

It’s a system-change that’s brought parents of kids with autism, advocates and the official opposition to a protest outside the B.C. Legislature recently, but it’s also one that the government claims will be more accessible for families across the province.

The $172 million figure was laid out in B.C.’s 2022 budget, released Tuesday (Feb. 22).

The majority of that ($114 million) is aimed towards starting the transition to the needs-based system. The budget states this shift, starting on April 1 of this year, includes fully covering the cost of the essential medical equipment and supplies, such as wheelchairs.

The other $58 million is allocated for increasing costs associated with the expected growing demand among children and youth who have support needs.

Services for youth with autism and other support needs will be run out of what the government calls family connection centres. Those sites will open in the Northwest and Central Okanagan regions in 2023, and they’ll serve as pilot programs that will inform provincewide implementation when it begins in 2024.

“These will offer accessible and inclusive services through a community agency to all families, regardless of whether they have a diagnosis, based on their child’s unique needs,” the budget states. B.C. has touted the new system not requiring a medical diagnosis as one of its strong points.

Continued consultation with families, service providers and Indigenous communities will “ensure a smooth transition for all families,” according to the budget. At a recent protest against the system change, parents told Black Press Media that consultation so far has been lacking, and has felt like a one-way conversation where the province has just said what it’s doing rather than listening to concerns.

READ: Parents, opposition scorn province over autism funding model at rally in Victoria

READ: Advocates raise concerns as B.C. moves to new support model for children with disabilities


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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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