This year’s budget announced historic investments in child care, brought some welcome news for youth in care and for kinship care families, but fell short on other important investments for children, youth and their families. Here’s our take on Budget 2022.
For children and their families, the highlight of this budget is the continued and expanded investments in child care. The 2022 budget will both decrease fees for families and expand the system’s capacity to provide more publicly funded child care spaces. While decreases in fees are welcome, families are also in urgent need of more, high quality, public child care spaces in all regions of the province and we appreciate government’s commitment to affordability and expansion through investments in the early childhood educator workforce and building more spaces.
High quality, affordable and accessible child care is critical to lifting families out of poverty.
We recognize that dramatic increases in child care investment include significant commitments from the federal government through the federal-provincial agreement.
Youth in Care and Kinship Care
We know that pandemic measures, including a moratorium on youth aging out of their current accommodations once they turned nineteen, had positive effects and welcome the news that temporary housing and support arrangements will be made permanent. We also welcome the new $600-a-month rent supplements introduced for program participants. It is not clear from the budget whether or not only youth who qualify for the Agreement with Young Adults will be able to access the rent supplement and look forward to government providing more detail about how all youth who age out of government care will be supported.
For children living in the care of a relative, we’re pleased that government listened to advocates and a tax-free amount equivalent to the Child Disability Benefit (CDB) will be added to the monthly maintenance payment for court-ordered out-of-care providers of eligible children and youth. This increased disability supplement will be applied retroactively to April 2019.
Unfortunately, there has been no increase in foster parent rates or investments in greater capacity for areas of the province that are already unable to accommodate children in need of placement.
Historically, investments in K-12 education have been sorely lacking and this year’s budget is no different. The pandemic revealed existing deficiencies ranging from overall staffing shortages, a chronic lack of support for the inclusion of children with diverse learning needs and a failure to ensure all classrooms and school buildings are maintained to a healthy standard.
Unfortunately, incremental increases in this budget not only fail to make up for historic shortfalls, due to the current rate of inflation, it is likely that schools will lose ground over the next three years.
It’s disappointing to see no meaningful increase to support children with diverse learning needs after years of advocacy and human rights complaints.
Using the Market Basket Measure (MBM) the BC government announced last fall that it has achieved its poverty reduction targets and it did so again in this budget.
However, using the Low-Income Measure (LIM) as First Call, OECD countries and international agencies including UNICEF do, the most recent data shows only an incremental improvement in child and family poverty in BC and a still-high child poverty rate of 18%.
This budget is notable for its prediction that individuals in need of temporary assistance will decrease over the next three years and that those in need of disability assistance will grow only slightly. It is also worth noting that government did not increase assistance benefit rates despite the rising rate of inflation.
Children with Support Needs
Government announced last year that it is transitioning to a needs-based system throughout the province to provide services to children and youth with support needs. This announcement generated some anxiety as well as numerous questions about how this model will work and whether it will improve access for children and their families and actually reduce wait lists for diagnoses and services. The budget falls short of providing those answers.
Increased funding for essential medical equipment is welcome. More details are needed about how the relatively small increased investment of $58 million over 3 years, presumably delivered through the new community agency hub model, will clear waitlists and better serve children and youth with support needs going forward.
Read the budget and accompanying documents at the government of BC website here.
Download First Call’s statement here (PDF)