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B.C. Budget 2024 doesn’t go far enough for children, youth: Representative

Children, their families telling her ‘very loudly’ that more was expected: Jennifer Charlesworth
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Jennifer Charlesworth is B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth. (InWithForward)

The Representative for Children and Youth says B.C.’s 2024 budget doesn’t go far enough to address urgent needs.

Jennifer Charlesworth said she’s encouraged by some of the commitments included in the budget, which was released Thursday (Feb. 22), but she continues to be “disappointed that the acute needs of B.C.’s most vulnerable young people are not being reflected fiscally.”

She added she expects much more, and children, youth and their families and communities are also telling her office “very loudly that they expect more as well.”

Finance Minister Katrine Conroy released Budget 2024 in Victoria Thursday, noting that the province plans to support children with learning differences with access to individualized autism support and those with dyslexia. She said the province also plans to double the number of Roots workers, so Indigenous children-in-care and out-of-care homes remain connected to their culture and community.

But Charlesworth said the budget still falls short in a number of areas.

She said there was lack of broad-based supports for children and youth across the disability spectrum, including those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other neuro-cognitive disabilities that currently receive little to no supports. In November, Charlesworth’s office released a report following up with four families first interviewed in 2021 about the inequities in supports and services for young people with fetal alcohol syndrome. They said still not enough was being done.

READ MORE: 3 years later, B.C. families of children with disabilities still struggling

READ MORE: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder gets ‘meagre’ support compared to other conditions: B.C. report

The budget, Charlesworth said, also fails to enhance access to and supports for children and youth with mental health concerns. She added there’s an acute need, “especially given the significant rise in rates of clinical depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders over the past four years.”

Charlesworth said there also needs to be funding to address the long-standing fiscal inequities that result in Indigenous children have to live off-reserve, which can then lead to having less access to needed supports and services.

“These are unprecedented times for children and youth in the province – for Indigenous youth who are at the centre of a seismic jurisdictional shift, for young people who are experiencing mental health challenges more frequently and intensely than ever before and for young people with increasingly complex special needs.”

She added the time to act is now as B.C. heads into a provincial election this fall.

“I am expecting to see more concrete commitments to the generation of people who will build the future of this province.”

READ MORE BUDGET 2024 STORIES:

B.C. Budget 2024: opposition parties slam NDP’s 2024 provincial budget

B.C. Budget 2024: focused on new health-care infrastructure, not workers

BUDGET 2024: B.C. runs record deficit of almost $8B, focuses on temporary relief

B.C. Budget 2024: it’s status quo for mental health and addictions service