B.C. Liberals hurting families with kids with special needs by dragging on school closures

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NEW WESTMINSTER – The B.C.Liberals’ failure to get children back into classrooms is disproportionately hurting families of children with special needs, say B.C.’s New Democrats.

“The B.C. Liberals’ failure to get a deal with teachers means students with special needs are going to suffer because they’re not in school where they belong and can’t get the support they need,” said Judy Darcy, MLA for New Westminster.

Judy Darcy and Anne Belanger speaking out at a press conference in New Westminster

Judy Darcy and Anne Belanger speaking out at a press conference in New Westminster

“It hurts the families of these children too, who are not being provided with options for the special care their children need while schools remain closed,” said Darcy.

Darcy was joined by Anne Bélanger, a local mother of a child with special needs, on Thursday to speak about how her family would be affected.

Bélanger’s 8-year-old son requires a high level of care in childcare and in school.  When school is in session, he has the support of an Education Assistant. In the summer, he attends full-day care where the government pays for the extra costs associated with her son’s complex level of support.

However, Bélanger recently received a letter informing her that the Ministry for Children and Family Development will discontinue provisions to care for children with special needs in the event of continued school closures. She estimated that she will now be responsible for $3,200 per month in additional childcare if classes are cancelled in September.

“It is unacceptable that my family has to suffer because my son won’t be in school this fall getting the supports he needs,” said Bélanger.

Darcy noted that the Liberals’ newly-launched “B.C. Parent Info” website provides no information for parents of students with special needs.

New Democrat spokesperson for education Rob Fleming said that while the government says it’s back to bargaining with teachers, with less than two weeks to go before school is supposed to start, the two parties haven’t recently met face to face.

“The B.C. Liberals have spent more time bargaining through the media, putting up roadblocks, launching antagonistic websites with no useful information and creating chaos in our education system than actually reaching a deal,” said Fleming.

“And families of kids like Anne’s son are going to be seriously disadvantaged because they’re not in school where they belong and can get the support they need.”