Manitoba Child Advocate launches survey into disabilities services after death of child

The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth is looking for input from parents who have children with disabilities as part of its first ever research project and child death investigation into the provincial disabilities system.

Survey to gather input from parents about the gaps in services for children with disabilities

The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth is launching a survey for parents and caregivers of children with disabilities. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth is launching a survey as part of an investigation into the death of a child who had involvement with Child and Family Services while receiving disability services. 

The aim of the survey is to gather input from parents and caregivers of children with disabilities about their own  experiences accessing care. The survey is the first of its kind for the Manitoba Child Advocate and comes after the death of a child with a disability.

The child is not being identified at this time.

"I'm currently doing a child death investigation into a youth who had been receiving disability services and child and family services within one year of the youth's death," said Manitoba Advocate Daphne Penrose.   

"We're also looking at other youth who have died and the disability services that were, or were not provided to those youths as well."

Penrose said since 2018 when her mandate was expanded to cover services provided to youth, she has heard many stories from families who are struggling to access quality care when it comes to disability services in Manitoba.

Gaps in services

Penrose said common themes are lack of mental health services and lengthy wait times to access services and diagnoses.

"Respite care issues, inequity of services in rural and remote communities, themes around wait lists, all of those issues."

Penrose said responses collected from the survey will be used to help shape new policy recommendations for the Manitoba government next year.

"I'm inviting all parents and caregivers to share their stories with me about what is working well and what must be changed so we can see systems improve and all children supported and flourishing," Penrose said.

The report will also look into how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected accessibility of services for children with disabilities.

The survey will be open until November 8.

"No child should die due to service inequity. All children and youth in Manitoba deserve the highest quality of public services possible," Penrose said.

She plans to release a special report on the topic next year.

The goal of the Manitoba Advocate is to investigate child deaths, make recommendations to government, conduct child-centred research, and educate the public on children's rights.