NDP CALLS FOR HALT TO CHILDREN IN CARE SERVICE CUTS, FULL REVIEW OF SUPPORTS AVAILABLE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
EDMONTON – Alberta’s NDP is calling on the UCP Government to immediately halt changes planned that would sever supports for former foster children transitioning out of government care at an earlier age in the wake of shocking new statistics. The Opposition is also seeking an emergency review and recommendations concerning the supports in place for children and youth in care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between April 1 and Nov. 30, 10 young Albertans receiving supports through the Supports and Financial Assistance (SFA) program died. That figure is the same as the number of deaths reported for the entire 12-month duration of the 2019-2020 reporting period and is higher than any prior year reported publicly.
The UCP intends to lower the age that former children in care can receive SFA support (which can include funding for things like housing, counselling and career preparation) from 24 to 22. The change was originally supposed to come into effect on April 1, 2020, but has been stopped temporarily by a court injunction.
Leading experts and advocates working with vulnerable children in care — as well as the NDP — have maintained that the change to supports will have a significant impact and could lead to increased suicides.
NDP Children’s Services Critic Rakhi Pancholi said the reported deaths for former children in care this year makes it abundantly clear that the Government should immediately reverse course on changes to SFA.
“We should be adding more supports for these Albertans, not taking them away,” Pancholi said. “This policy change has always been horrific and cruel. These people are trying to get their lives on track and are running into constant roadblocks being put in their way by this Government.”
On March 19, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench also agreed that the SFA policy change could result in “social, financial and psychological harm” to these former children in care and as a result, granted an interim injunction against the change.
Pancholi also called for an emergency review that would lead to recommendations for changes to existing supports for children and former children in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. She offered to work directly with the Minister of Children’s Services to implement any changes identified.
“The Minister would have my full support to make the system better during this unprecedented public health emergency,” Pancholi said. “Children in care already face extremely difficult circumstances and those have only gotten worse. Albertans are dying. It’s the Government’s duty to do whatever it can to stop these senseless tragedies.”