Children with disabilities from several regions can see their day camp enrollment at risk, because Quebec is late in announcing funding that will allow buddies to be assigned, less than two weeks before school recess.
AQLPH and its 17 regional bodies are urging the Ministry of Education to disclose the amounts allocated to the PAFLPH Financial Assistance Program.
This program supports access to activities for people with disabilities, a large part of which covers the stipends of day camp escorts. Amounts are distributed by the AQLPH and regional authorities, according to needs.
The General Manager of AQLPH points out that the challenge for day camp organizers is not to immediately have the money in their hands, but rather to know how much support they will eventually receive in order to move forward with recruitment.
“The whole process is delayed. As long as one does not know how many pennies one has to give, one cannot fire the machine; analyze our requests, warn organizations that will have x amount, and then just need to sign the check,” explains Genevieve Bergeron.
Day camps have already had to cancel places for disabled children, due to the lack of accompanying persons. And in the context of a labor shortage, it’s hard to find staff quickly, says Ms Bergeron.
The AQLPH and the regional authorities have in the past few days sent a series of letters calling on MPs to get things moving.
“Many organizations cannot afford to hire trainers without these grants. What is even more disturbing is that it is people with disabilities, young and old, who are deprived of rich experience and parents who are deprived of choices in the work-family balance,” we can read in the letter sent To Minister Chantal Rollo.
In response to a question about the reason for the delay, the Ministry of Education replied that the funds would be allocated “soon”.
Confirmed in the middle of summer
This expectation is not new to the regional bodies that manage the funds. Last year, the funds were confirmed in the middle of summer.
In Montreal, Altergo decided to advance the financing, although Quebec did not respond.
“We were expecting to have the same amounts as the previous year. We announced the amounts to the organizations, but we didn’t have the money. So we found ourselves in a situation where the organizations were impatient to receive amounts that we couldn’t distribute. It was very stressful for us. This year, we decided Not taking that risk because we don’t know what could happen,” said Altergo’s Managing Director, Elsa Lavigne.
AQLPH would like better predictability of funding through agreements that would set amounts over several years, as was the case previously.
Having companions is not only necessary for a child with special needs. It’s also a matter of safety for everyone else, says Montreal mother Stephanie Harvey, who has been waiting for months for a suitable campground in Lachin.
Her son Dominic, 7, has a developmental coordination disorder, which is characterized by slower movements, difficulty changing clothes or applying sunscreen, Ms Harvey details.
“If the change takes three or four times longer than the others, and everyone goes to the pool, they cannot leave him alone and cannot let others go to the pool, if there is only one monitor in his group,” she argued.
Ms. Harvey regrets the inequity prevailing in the allocation of places with support services compared to regular registrations.
She applied to Lachine Entertainment Center in February, but received confirmation only a few days ago. The center will be able to service three out of the five weeks needed by immersing themselves in an operating budget, says Ms Harvey, who must find another last-minute solution for the other two weeks.
“We apply before anyone else, but we have our answer after everyone else,” she laments.
Montrealer launched a petition on the National Assembly’s website asking the government to provide recurring and predictable funding for the inclusion of children with disabilities in the camps.
In theory, from a legal point of view, day campers cannot refuse an escort service for the simple reason that funding is not available for the program, asserts Ms. Lefebvre. But in reality, the situation is completely different due to limited resources, she says.
The AQLPH estimates that 5% of the youth who attend day camps have special needs.
The education minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment by The Canadian Press.
This article was produced with financial support from Meta Fellowships and The Canadian Press for News.