Children with special needs and their families are getting more help from the provincial government with a $6.3 million boost to the province’s respite program. Katrine Conroy, B.C.’s minister of children and family development, was in Surrey on Thursday to announce this.
Conroy made the announcement at the Centre for Child Development, located at 9460-140th St. in Whalley and serving more than 3,000 children annually.
“Anyone who’s raised a child knows that there are pressures, and rewards, and there’s so much time and effort involved,” said Conroy, who has four children and nine grandchildren. “I know of what I speak. Parents need breaks when they’re caring for their kids.
“For a parent who has a child with special needs, a break or a time off from care, even if it’s just for a short period of time, is especially important and most of those parents just don’t have that option of asking a friend or a relative – they need a qualified respite care provider.”
She said now more than 1,300 families on a wait list are receiving respite funding. “And those who are receiving the funding already, there’s almost 5,000 families, will see a boost in the respite funding that they’re going to receive. So those families will have peace of mind that their children are receiving the quality care while they’re getting a little bit of a break, and as you heard, parents are being supported.”
Conroy said this is just the first step in addressing an issue “that has far too long been ignored and allowed to get worse.”
Of the $6.3 million, she said, $5 million is being used to reduce the respite wait list and the government is also boosting the annual base amount of respite funding that families receive.
“This amount was established in 1989 and has never been increased,” Conroy noted. “That’s 30 years ago. It is unfathomable to think the same amount of money has been paid out for 30 years. But effective as of April 30th this year, we’ve increased that rate by 10 per cent.
“So for those parents, that additional funds could mean an extra night away with a partner, an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with other children, or is just a chance for some good old-fashioned down-time,” Conroy said.
“Respite really gives the parents a time to recharge but it also benefits the children – their world expands as they learn to count on other people.”