Disabled children from several regions could see their registration in a day camp compromised, because Quebec is delaying in announcing the funding allowing the hiring of companions, less than two weeks before the school holidays.
The Quebec Association for the Recreation of Persons with Disabilities (AQLPH) and its 17 regional bodies are urging the Ministry of Education to reveal the amounts allocated to the Financial Assistance Program for Recreation for Persons with Disabilities (PAFLPH).
This program supports accessibility to activities for people with disabilities, a large part of which covers the salary of companions in day camps. The distribution of the sums is assumed by the AQLPH and the regional authorities, according to the needs.
The challenge for day camp organizers is not so much to have the money immediately in their hands, but rather to know the amount of the subsidy they will eventually receive in order to proceed with hiring, indicates the director general. of the AQLPH.
“The whole process is delayed. As long as one does not know how many pennies one has to give, one cannot launch the machine; analyze our requests, warn the organizations that will have an amount x, then it just needs to sign the check,” explains Geneviève Bergeron.
Already day camps have had to cancel places for disabled children, for lack of accompanying persons. And in a context of labor shortage, it is difficult to find staff quickly, says Ms. Bergeron.
The AQLPH and the regional authorities have in the last few days sent a series of letters calling on deputies in order to get things moving.
“Many organizations cannot afford to hire coaches without these grants. And the most distressing thing is that it is people with disabilities, young and adult, whom we deprive of an enriching experience and parents who we deprive of options in work-family balance”, can we read in the missive sent to Minister Chantal Rouleau.
Asked about the reason for the delay, the Ministry of Education replies that the sums will be allocated “soon”.
Confirmed in the middle of summer
This expectation is not new for the regional bodies that administer the funds. Last year, the money was confirmed in the middle of summer.
In Montreal, Altergo had decided to advance on financing, despite the lack of response from Quebec.
“We had anticipated that we would have the same amounts as the previous year. We had announced the amounts to the organizations, but we didn’t have the money. We therefore found ourselves in a situation where organizations were impatient to receive amounts that we could not distribute to them. It was quite stressful for us. This year, we decided not to take this risk because we don’t know what can happen,” says Altergo’s general manager, Elsa Lavigne.
The AQLPH would like better predictability of funding with agreements that would establish the amounts over several years, as was the case previously.
A matter of security
The presence of companions is not only essential for the child with special needs. It’s also a question of safety for everyone else, says a mother from Montreal, Stéphanie Harvey, who has been waiting for months for a suitable place in a camp in Lachine.
Her son Dominic, 7, has a developmental coordination disorder, which is characterized by slower movements, difficulty changing clothes or putting on sunscreen, details Ms. Harvey.
“If he takes three or four times longer to change than the others, and everyone goes to the swimming pool, they cannot leave him alone and cannot let the others go to the swimming pool, if there is just one monitor on his group”, she argues.
Ms. Harvey deplores the inequity that prevails in the allocation of places with support services compared to regular registrations.
She filed a request with the Lachine Recreation Center in February, but received confirmation just a few days ago. The center will be able to provide the service for three of the five weeks requested by dipping into its operating budget, says Ms. Harvey, who must find another solution at the last minute for the other two weeks.
“We make our request before everyone else, but we have our answer after everyone else,” she laments.
The Montrealer has launched a petition on the website of the National Assembly to demand that the government provide recurring and predictable funding for the inclusion of children with disabilities in the camps.
In theory, from a legal point of view, day camps cannot refuse an accompaniment service on the simple reason that they do not have the funding for the program, underlines Ms. Lefebvre. But in reality, the situation is quite different due to limited resources, she says.
The AQLPH estimates that 5% of young people attending day camps have special needs.
The education minister’s office did not respond to The Canadian Press’ request for comment.
This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta Fellowships and The Canadian Press for News.