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Majority of families denied Quebec supplement for children with exceptional needs

Exclusive: Disabled children not eligible for government benefit
WATCH: Parents with severely disabled children say they’re being refused government help because they “don’t meet the requirements.” Global's Anne Leclair reports.

The Quebec government promised to help parents of special needs children in 2016 by adding extra benefits for those dealing with exceptional needs. But the latest statistics show that 54 per cent of families applying for the exceptional needs benefits are being turned down.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Tanya Smith. “He is eligible for it, so why didn’t he get accepted? I don’t know, did the government run out of money?”

When the mother of three first applied for the new supplement she was told by social workers and psychologists that if anyone will get it, she will. Her seven-year-old son AJ has severe autism spectrum disorder, is non-verbal, rarely sleeps and still wears diapers.

READ MORE: Two mothers bring special needs shopping carts to Quebec stores

According to the letter she received from Retraite Québec, the government department that administers the supplement, “The severity of his (AJ’s) limitations does not meet the program’s eligibility requirements.”

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Smith was counting on the supplement to help pay for necessary renovations in order to avoid having youth protection step in.

“An occupational therapist came here and said that such and such needed to be done or they have to make a call to the DYP,” said Smith.

The 37-year-old single mother works part-time as a bartender and has trouble making ends meet.

According to the latest statistics from Retraite Québec, more than half of the families who apply for the supplement are being turned down.
Of the 4,065 requests received since the program was launched last year, 3,665 were processed and only 1,674 (46 per cent) were accepted.

“I love AJ with all my heart, I feel upset, angry at the government that they’re not supporting their future,” family friend Heidi Chenoy said.

Smith is planning to appeal the decision but all the paperwork and fighting for services is taking its toll.

“You end up depressed,” said Smith. “I went to the CLSC to speak to somebody I’ve been on the waiting list for the past five years to speak to somebody for me.”

READ MORE: English school boards support parents’ calls for more funding for special needs students

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It’s emotionally and physically exhausting. She recently sustained a concussion after her son accidentally kicked her.

But what worries the Cote-St-Luc mother the most is that if she doesn’t find the thousands of dollars required to adapt her home soon to make it safer, she could lose custody of AJ.

“I’m afraid that they’re gonna take him away from me cause he’s gonna beat me up one day,” said Smith. “We need help in any way shape or form.”