Text Size

Watch our 60th Anniversary video that honours and remembers the civil rights history of people with developmental disabilities in BC. Read more about our history here.

A year long celebration including marches, parties, workshops, grants and film making. Join the conversation at disabilitypride.ca

 

Missed the Festival? View a selection of the films on the NFB Playlist!

Stay tuned for more information!

Analysis of BC Budget 2013 - June Update

Summary: 
The British Columbia Minister of Finance, Michael De Jong, announced the June Update to the 2013 BC Budget on June 27, 2013, following on the earlier release of the original Budget proposal in February 2013.

Visit the BC Budget 2013 website to read official budget documents. Most elements of the June update remained the same as the prior February 2013 budget proposals, and we are re-releasing our analysis of the budget with some updates for the June 2013 update. Download a PDF copy of the analysis.

Highlights:

  •  The June 2013 Budget update notes that given downward revisions of projected income, up to $30 million in budget cuts may be implemented in 2013-14. The budget plan notes that “Ministry of Finance staff will be working with ministries to identify areas where these additional efficiencies can be realized,” and notes that further updates will be made in September. The social services sector in British Columbia, and in particular the community living sector, is already stretched to the breaking point. Any additional budget cuts would have severe, and dangerous, implications for people with disabilities and their families in British Columbia.
  • The Budget makes multiple references to the handling of negotiated wage increases in the  community social services sector. We are concerned by Government's approach to implementation of the mandate for wage increases to be covered in existing budgets in the social services sector. Living wages are a necessity in our sector, while service provider agencies are operating on budgets with no room to spare, particularly given the ongoing lack of increased funding. Government is needed to step up and fund these increases through government ministry and crown corporation savings. See below for more details.
  • No budget increases were made to Community Living BC, despite our repeated calls for an immediate and urgent investment. Inclusion BC continues to hear from families who are told there is simply no money to provide them with the supports they desperately need. While we are encouraged by the work being done on the 12 recommendations from the Deputy Minister's report, without an immediate financial investment, CLBC will continue operating in crisis-mode. See below for more details.
  • No increases were made to Persons with Disabilities benefits. 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 Province of BC recently responded to community and made positive changes to PWD benefits, including raising the earnings exemptions. However, we continue calling on Government to raise the rates so that people with disabilities are not consistently forced to live in poverty. Read the report, "Overdue", released by the Disability Without Poverty Coalition, for more information.
  • See below for other highlights from the 2013 budget.

Children and Youth with Special Needs

  • The Ministry of Children and Family Development will see an additional $76 million over three years allocated towards the BC Early Learning Strategy. The funding will create new child care spaces and improve the quality of care.

While this is a welcome announcement, improvements to the access and quality of the supported child development program must occur to allow children with special needs to access these new spaces.

  • An increase of $7 million was announced for the coordination of early childhood development programs. It was not made clear what “coordination” would entail.

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 do know that children are aging out of the supports before they are able to receive what they need. As we fail to provide children with the supports they need at a young age, we pay more for the additional services they require as they enter the school system and then when they graduate high school. 

Education

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

  • The Learning Improvement Fund saw an increase from $30 million to $60 million. We need clear, targeted direction from the Ministry in terms of ensuring outcomes that actually improve education for students, especially those with special needs.
  • The Ministry of Education must take a leadership role in supporting all educators, including classroom teachers, to address diversity in the classroom. While there will be an additional 400 Teaching Assistants hired over the next three years within the existing budget allocation, we need to ensure that all educators and para educators receive the pre and post service training to allow them to support students with special needs in regular classrooms.
  • A new $1200 grant was announced for students between 6 and 7 years of age to receive a Registered Education Savings Plan investment. This is a welcome announcement but will not come into effect for two years, when the province’s budget is “firmly in surplus.”

Supports to Adults with Developmental Disabilities

We learned that Community Living BC would not receive any funding increase.

  •  A small contingency fund exists to address increases in caseloads. This is extremely concerning as the funding would be allocated to those who come forward on an emergency basis or who advocate publicly.

This perpetuates a one-off system to address growing needs and deepens a very real crisis in community living. It cannot address the unmet needs of people waiting for services.

Individuals and their families remain desperately invisible. By not recognizing them in this budget we are balancing our books on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.

Community Living BC Caseloads:

Residential:

  • Residential Services caseloads will increase from 5750 in 2012/13 to 6000 in 2013/14 and to 6625 in 2015/16.
  • At the same time, there is a forecasted decrease in the average cost per client, which will go from $71,000 in 2012/12 to $68,500 in 2013/14 to $66,000 in 2014/15 and $63,000 in 2015/16.

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 putting us through yet another round of budget cuts.

Day Programs:

  • Day Program caseloads will increase from 14,500 in 2012/13 to 15,400 in 2013/14 to 16,100 in 2014/15 and 16,900 in 2015/16 while costs per person are expected to decrease.

Again, this is an unsustainable way to address the needs of those newly eligible for CLBC services. Budget documents acknowledge that ageing is adding additional pressures to CLBC’s capacity. If we want to maintain a high quality community system of supports and services we cannot continue to bleed services away from people who need them.

Personal Supports Initiative

  • The Personal Supports Initiative, which supports adults with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder and autism, will see its caseload increase from 424 in 2012/13 to 945 in 2015/16, while costs per person are expected to decrease from $24,000 this year, to $16,000 in 2013/14, to $10,108 by 2015/16.

Cutting service provision per recipient is not a successful method for providing the services needed and wanted by larger numbers of eligible people. It puts great pressure on people with disabilities and their families and has been shown repeatedly to create crises in people’s lives.

Income Security

Persons with Disabilities Benefits

No increase was announced to these very low rates over the next three years, though the number of people receiving PWD benefits is expected to increase by 6% each year.

BC’s Disability Benefits continue to be the 6th lowest in Canada. We must address these abysmally low rates so that those receiving benefits have the money they need to live beyond subsistence levels.

Cooperative Gains Mandate

The Budget makes multiple references to the 2012 Cooperative Gains Mandate, covering negotiated wage increases through collective bargaining in the community social services sector in the province. For example, it notes that "this mandate holds that any wage increases have to be funded from within existing agency budgets, with no reductions in public service, no off-loading of costs to the public, or negative impact to government's fiscal plan." We are very concerned about the Government's approach to implementation of the Mandate in relation to wages in the social services sector. The term "agency," it should be noted, is not part of the original Mandate document.

Achieving living wages that promote job stability in the social services sector is important for the lives of everyone who interacts with the sector, in particular people with developmental disabilities and their families. Service provider agencies are operating on budgets with no room to spare, particularly given the ongoing lack of increased funding to CLBC. We are aware that collective bargaining increases in the health sector are being funded through government ministry and crown corporation savings rather than on the backs of direct service providers, and a similar model is required in community living and the community social services sector as a whole.

In addition, social service agencies, to date, have not been funded for the Family Day statutory holiday, despite the Government’s pledge (as reported in the Times Colonist) to fund the holiday for social service agencies. As yet, no funding has been provided for these costs to contracted agencies; while CLBC has pledged that funds will be forthcoming for this purpose, other funding agencies and ministries have provided no details on how the holiday will be funded for the social services sector.