Posted on Nov 4, 2019

NDP joins advocates, former children in care to demand UCP reverse cruel budget cuts

The NDP Official Opposition, former children in care, advocates and members of the all-party endorsed Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention called on Jason Kenney and the UCP Government to immediately reverse their cruel cuts to the Support Financial Assistance Agreement program.

The UCP government has dropped the eligibility age for the program from 24 to 22, meaning 500 former foster children will see their support eliminated as early as next spring.

“This is just cruel. These are young people that are often without a support network, without parents to rely on, and now they have nowhere to turn,” said Rakhi Pancholi, Official Opposition Critic for Children's Services and MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud. “This is a government that is willingly giving over $4.7 billion to big corporations but can’t bother to find the necessary funding to preserve supports for children in care that are trying to move their lives forward?

“The UCP buried this cut in their budget and now that they’ve been caught, they must immediately reverse this heartless decision.”

Shyannah Sinclair, 21, a former child in care and current participant in the Support Financial Assistance Agreement program, said she worries about the future for her and her daughter. Sinclair was informed last week that she would be removed from the SFAA program in 10 months as a result of the UCP’s decision.

“I was really scared and upset and I don’t really know what I’m going to do,” she said. “My goal is to be finished school by the time I’m 24. This really impacts my future.”

Wallis Kendal, a longtime outreach worker, co-founder of the iHuman Youth Society and founder of the Moving the Mountains project to help at-risk Indigenous women, said the Kenney Government’s cuts will cause serious harm to many young adults like Shyannah.

“The only thing that changes a youth’s future is knowing they have a future,” Kendal said. “When Sandra Bromley and I found iHuman Youth Society for trauma-impacted youth we set the age range at 14 to 24 years because we knew that youth in care would need more years to reach their benchmark.”

Peter Choate, who served on the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention, which provided recommendations that were accepted by all Alberta political parties, including the UCP, also criticized the cuts.

“As a former member of the Child Intervention Panel, I am deeply concerned about roll backs of supports for some of the most vulnerable youth,” he said. “If they were eligible for PDD or AISH funding they would, in most cases, already be on it. This is a moment when we should step back and wonder if these changes should be reconsidered.”

To pressure the UCP government into reversing this decision, the NDP Caucus is putting forward a motion for an emergency debate in the Legislature.

“We won’t let this go,” Pancholi said. “The UCP lied to Albertans. Nowhere in their platform did they say the gift to big corporations would result in cuts to supports for our most vulnerable.”