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Special needs youths waitlisted as funding lags
British Columbia's special needs funding isn't keeping up with demand, says a family whose severely disabled son will be cut from assistance when he turns 19 next month.
Teenager Jonathan Martin has Down syndrome and Autism. He's also hearing impaired and non-verbal. The one-on-one care he requires is administered by a support worker, Heather, who is paid for by the Ministry of Children – for now.
When he becomes a legal adult in June, Martin will fall under the care of Community Living BC – which has told his family that "all available funding… is committed."
The CLBC promised to contact them when funding becomes available, but that's of little consolation to Jonathan's mother Kathy.
"Age 19 is an arbitrary number. Someone like Jonathan with a developmental disability, he doesn't change at age 19. He still needs the same services," she told CTV News.
"He's completely dependent… he requires people to engage him."
Community Living BC, which has a budget of $701-million this year, says funding has actually increased by $31-million over the last three years.
But critics claim that's not enough to keep up with demand, with special needs clients increasing in numbers by five per cent annually.
According to the CLBC's numbers, an average of $52,054 per year was spent on clients in 2007. In 2011, it was down to $48,843. The organization says it is simply being more efficient.
Social Development Minister Harry Bloy said he cannot comment on specific cases, but that his ministry "has always funded the services required for Community Living BC."
"I admit there are lots of challenges for families and for this government to keep providing services," he said, adding that "we have provided more money, year after year."
Bloy says CLBC also brought in 766 new clients over the last year, and expanded service to a further 1,000.
Asked for comment, British Columbia's "family first" premier, Christy Clark, also pledged her support for special needs families. "We need to make sure we're supporting families of all shapes and sizes and that includes people with disabilities," Clark said.
But Kathy Martin, whose family still faces an uncertain future, isn't convinced.
"Certainly our family's not being put first," she said. "Our family is collapsing."
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