New Brunswick

Children with special needs won't lose support workers, Cardy says

The New Brunswick government has come up with money to help about 50 families keep the support workers helping their children with developmental challenges stay in daycares.

Province finds money after 50 families were bumped from program that provides support workers

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said families will continue to receive support. (CBC)

The New Brunswick government has come up with money to help about 50 families keep the support workers helping their children with developmental challenges stay in daycares.

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy says the families affected are those who were bumped out of the program this year by more severe cases after an unexpected increase in applications.

"They will continue to receive support and we are going to work to make sure as many children as possible are covered," he told reporters.

"At least that'll help with people who already had arrangements in place, with expectations their funding would continue. So that pressure will be relieved."

For folks on the waiting list, we're going to continue to work with them, talk with them and see what we can do.- Dominic Cardy , Education and Early Childhood Development Minister

Those families learned just a week ago that they would be excluded from the program effective Friday April 26.

The enhanced support workers program provides funding to daycare centres to pay for workers who provide one-on-one help to children with severe disabilities or conditions.

The loss of funding had many families facing the prospect of one parent giving up his or her job to care for their child full time.

Liberal MLA and education critic Chuck Chiasson said he had heard "gut-wrenching" stories from families who were within days of having to make that decision.

One daycare in his riding told him that four children were on the verge of losing their support workers.

"That daycare said to me, 'We're going to have to send them home,'" he said.

Cardy said the province was now looking for ways to help about 100 other families who have been on a waiting list for the program, some of whom relied on a backup program from the Department of Social Development.

"For folks on the waiting list, we're going to continue to work with them, talk with them and see what we can do," he said.

Liberal MLA and education critic Chuck Chiasson said he had heard 'gut-wrenching' stories from families who were within days of having to give up their jobs to care for their children.

The budget for the program has not been cut, and there is a waiting list for funding every year, the government has said.

But this year, what Cardy calls "a massive spike in applicants" meant that more families than ever were turned down.

At the same time, some families that had been using the program last year were removed to make room for others whose children had more serious developmental challenges.

Some families on the waiting list have used funding from a Department of Social Development program providing family supports for children with disabilities. One parent told CBC News on Wednesday that had been cut off as well.

'I don't know why it's gotten so far'

Cardy said his officials were working with non-profit groups and other departments "about ways we can try and help to see if there are other supports that can be put in place."

Chiasson criticized Cardy for notifying parents only a week or two before their funding was to be cut off.

"I don't know why it's gotten so far," he said. "If there was a problem there, why was it not reported to the minister earlier, before they started telling people and giving people two weeks notice they were going to be cutting off their support?"

Cardy said the notices went out in early April because that's the program deadline, and the department didn't see evidence of the spike until then.

The New Brunswick Association for Community Living says one explanation for the spike may be the recent rollout of early learning centres, daycare facilities with enhanced programs and curriculum.

Those centres have inclusion policies and may have helped more parents learn about the enhanced support worker program, executive director Sarah Wagner said.

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