Parents with special needs children raise the alarm as strike continues

Teachers protest on the steps of the Legislature in Victoria.
Teachers protest on the steps of the Legislature in Victoria. Jonathan Bartlett, Global News

The B.C. government is promising to pay $40 per student each day that the school is not in session due to the ongoing strike, but some parents of special needs children say the subsidy is not enough.

The $40 subsidy is available for parents of students 12 years old and under.

It is part of the Temporary Education Support for Parents (TESP) program that is supposed to help parents out financially during the strike.

Angelina Halford lives in Vancouver and has two children with special needs.

Halford is on disability and is struggling to afford to take care of her kids.

She says it costs her $130 a day per child to have a caretaker watch over her children.

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On top of that, there are only two places in Vancouver – Leisure Challenge and Trout Lake – that can take care of her children’s specific needs.

Vanessa Shoen of Port Alberni says her 17-year-old daughter Brook Holder has the mental capacity of a one-year-old and it costs her a minimum of $15 an hour to hire a private caretaker to watch her when school is not in session.

Her daughter goes to Alberni District Secondary School and is enrolled in the life-skills program.

Being 17, she is not eligible for the $40 subsidy.

“It would cost a parent over $100 for a day for a child like that to be looked after,” says Shoen.

“There is been no consideration at all for people with disabilities.”

On its website, the government says to be eligible for the $40 subsidy, the same age restrictions apply for the special needs children attending a public school.

The ministry does say it will be providing Supported Childhood Development funding to cover in-school hours for families with special needs children currently accessing services.

“All contracted agencies that deliver Supported Childhood Development supports to families with children with special needs are being informed. Families should contact their service provider to learn more,” says the website.

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The $40 subsidy payments are expected to be processed 30 days after the month that the labour disruption ends.

Eligible parents can apply here.

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