Saturday, May 10, 2014

MLA Rice takes local concerns on support for families to Committee room

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, took a number of concerns of local residents to the monthly meeting of the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth, providing some background on issues on the North Coast for Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who watches over the Office of Children and Youth.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond has been a strong advocate for British Columbia families and a frequent contributor to the Committee sessions, on Wednesday morning, she provided an updated overview of the work of her office for the committee .

As part of her contribution to those discussion, Ms. Rice, who is a member of the Committee, recounted the recent tragic circumstances of a murder-suicide in Prince Rupert, which saw a mother take the life of her son and then her own life, seemingly unable to cope any longer with care for her autistic son.

That event has become a major discussion point in the province in recent weeks and was one that Ms. Turpel-Lafond spoke to in April.

Prince Rupert Tragedy a call to action on youth care, advocate says

In her committee review, MLA Rice asked for further comment from Children's Commissioner, particularly when it comes to the current status of services on the North Coast.

As part of her commentary, Ms. Turpel-Lafond explained that the case has been forwarded to her Office and that her examination of the issue continues.

She did outline some of the background regarding service delivery in the region and how the resources currently are not there for residents and that it's an issue that the Government will have to address with economic growth projected for the region.

 This case has come forward.

It's a tragedy. We will make a decision internally, once others have done their work, about whether or not we investigate this case. Whether or not we investigate it, there is an issue, which is the opportunity for the ministry to strengthen resources there. 

There is a key opportunity to do that. Families of children with autism receive a fund that they are expected to buy their services from. There are no services to buy in locations like the north. You can't buy intensive behavioural support services. There's nothing there. The ministry staff themselves tell me there's nothing to refer the family to. 

What happens in the Kitimat, Prince Rupert, places? People get sent to Vancouver. That's not appropriate for families. We have to build those services. I'm always thinking about this, because I'm thinking to the future, where we're going to have, possibly, very significant economic development in that region. 

The government has a plan to have a real massive development in that area, which could bring a lot of wealth and value to that region. But what are the social impacts? 

Ms. Rice, also followed up those points with a few thoughts of her own on the current situation and the
concerns of residents in the region.

... the learning for me, as the MLA, is that people have come forward to me and said: "Yes, I may get funding, but I don't have any opportunities to spend this funding on my autistic or special needs child." If I could just add my voice to that as well. 

Others have contacted me who have left Prince Rupert, where I live, who have said that they left because they couldn't provide the services or there were no services for their child. In our MCFD office there's such a high turnover of staff that they're not necessarily…. 

I mean, I don't want to knock them, but it's just that they might not have necessarily the training or local knowledge of our community issues. As well, within the Northern Health umbrella, only one speech pathologist. Again, those sorts of specialties are not consistent in the north.

Beyond the item of note from Ms. Rice, the full review of the Committee session is well worth a read, as the Committee examined an issue that has resonated on the North Coast in the wake of the tragedy of April, as well as other items of concern from across the province.

The discussion provides a very thorough review of the challenges being faced by the front line workers of the province's support system and raises a number of issues that should be addressed by the government.

You can examine the full discussion from the Committee archive page, the contribution from the North Coast MLA can be found shortly after the 1005 mark of the timeline

The Legislature Video Archive also provides an audio archive of the session found on the Committee Website page

For more on developments in Victoria see our Legislature Archive page.

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