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B.C. creates relief fund for kids with special needs during COVID-19

Families with children with special needs ask B.C. government to ease funding dates and restrictions
For families with children who have special needs - physical distancing rules mean they can't access the support staff and services they rely on. That means the funds that go towards assisting their children - are now essentially useless. Catherine Urquhart explains why and has reaction from families urging the government for help.

Raising and educating a child while in the middle of a pandemic is major challenge. And when that child has a disability, it can be especially daunting.

Amanda Flentjar’s son has autism and, like most families, she can’t access the usual supports for him because of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C. youth in care to still get support after 19th birthday

Worried that therapy funds could expire, she launched an online petition, calling on the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development to ease funding qualification dates and restrictions.

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“It’s already a stressful situation and we feel forgotten by the ministry,” the Comox Valley mom said.

It’s not just parents of kids on the autism spectrum who are struggling. Stephanie Richards’ son has Down syndrome.

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“Our kids are already behind in the school system, receiving limited support and having trouble staying on track,” Richards said.

“With these closures and not being sure how we’re going to be able to access education, it’s definitely a big concern weighing on us.”

Late Tuesday, the province¬†announced that it’s establishing an emergency relief fund for children and youth with special needs. It will provide $225 a month for three months to support 50 per cent more eligible families who are waiting for services.

The funds can be used for help with meal preparation, grocery shopping, home-making services, caregiver relief support, or counselling services.

Also, requirements to qualify for autism support funds will be eased, allowing more money to be used for equipment and in-home learning.

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