Budget 2019 & Passing the Torch

2019 Budget Consultation

Thank you to everyone for all your work in getting information to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. Your messages advocating for increased access to speech-language pathology services for preschool-aged children in BC were clearly reflected in their Report On The Budget 2019 Consultation in two separate recommendations (#45 and #79, see below).

When we began Communication Matters, we assumed that putting forward an ethical argument for increasing access to SLP services could influence decision makers. However, when seeking advice on how to best advocate for more funding, we were often advised that in addition to personal stories and ethics, we needed to provide:

1. Specific statistics (e.g., discrepancies between services needed and actual services provided; e.g., discrepancies between services provided in other provinces and services provided in BC), and

2. Research showing that funding used to support the preschool-aged population results in wide-reaching cost savings for the government in the long run.  

It is notable that this is the type of information that committee members captured when they wrote the following summary within the Recommendations document:

Excerpt from the “Social Services-Child Care and Early Childhood Development” section (pg. 64):

Communication Matters and Speech and Hearing BC highlighted the immediate need for more full-time speech-language pathologists for preschool-age children, noting that BC has the second lowest number of speech-language pathologists per 100,000 people in Canada. Language and communication development in early years is linked to cognitive development, social skills, self-regulation and academic learning, and can affect the trajectory of a child’s lifetime. They emphasized that investments in early childhood health and development, and early intervention, saves future health, social and justice costs.

SLP Specific Budget 2019 Consultation Report Recommendations

Recommendation #45 (pg. 43):

Increase funding for ongoing, comprehensive health human resources planning and development, including the expansion of training capacity for priority professions, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, sonographers, MRI technologists and perfusionists, as well as recruitment and retention in rural and remote areas.

Recommendation #79 (pg. 68):

Significantly increase investment in early childhood development, especially early intervention and services in Indigenous communities, including the training, recruitment and retention of pediatric therapists, such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech language pathologists and behavioural therapists, as well as increased funding for autism intervention services and therapies.

Final Note:

We can be proud of our work but not thrilled YET. We do have to say that none of the above recommendations were reflected in the actual 2019 Budget for British Columbia, Budget and Fiscal Plan 2019/20 – 2021/22. So advocating for increased access to SLP services for preschool-aged children in BC must continue!  

The members of Communication Matters continue to feel passionate about the need for increased SLP services for preschool-aged children but we will no longer be operating under the Communication Matters name.i All advocacy efforts will now be channeled through Speech and Hearing BC in order to present one unified voice in BC. We feel it is right that this advocacy should be led by our provincial association, and we look forward with great enthusiasm to see Speech and Hearing BC continue this work.

For more information or to find out how you can help, please contact the Director for Early Intervention SLP Services (contact information can be found here).

A big thank you to everyone who has supported Communication Matters over the years!


i. The Communication Matters website, email, and social media channels will no longer be actively monitored.

2019 Budget Consultation Submission

Today is the last day to provide input to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for the Budget 2019 Consultation either by completing a survey or uploading a submission.

As per our July 10, 2018 post, Communication Matters has just submitted this request for the Committee’s consideration via the Consultation Portal.

2018 Ask for the 2019 Budget

Each fall, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services holds province-wide public consultations on the upcoming provincial budget for BC. Communication Matters, An SLP Advocacy Group for Young Children in BC, will be asking for the following. If you are also concerned about speech-language services for the preschool-aged population in BC, then feel free to use this Ask as well.


Communication Matters’ 2018 Ask for the 2019 Budget

The number of preschool-aged children in BC who require speech-language pathology (SLP) support is approximately 23,0001 – and Therapy BC recommends that a therapist carries a caseload of 25-40 clients.2 Assuming we use the higher caseload size (40 children), this indicates that at least 575 full-time SLPs are needed to work with this population in British Columbia (BC).

The Speech and Hearing BC Early Intervention SLP Director is working with Senior SLPs across the province to determine the exact number of SLP full-time equivalents (FTEs) currently serving this population within the public sector. Although we do not yet have this exact figure, we are confident that it is less than 200 FTEs.

Therefore, there is an immediate need for an additional 375 full-time speech-language pathologists for the preschool-aged population in BC. If the current funding system is followed, these positions would be funded through the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Taking the base starting wage of approximately $90,000 per year ($64,296 per year3 – plus benefits), this means there is an immediate need for at least $33,750,000.00 to be specifically designated for SLP services for preschool-aged children in BC to address the current gaps in service.

In summary, we are asking the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services to recommend that the BC Budget 2019 allocates 33.75 million dollars so preschool-aged children in our province have access to the speech-language pathology services they need in order to build a strong communication foundation for all their future learning.


Correction: An earlier version of this post used the base starting wage from an earlier year in the collective agreement.


1. Data Source: Demography Division, Statistics Canada, Ottawa. Prepared and presented by: BC Stats, BC Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/data/statistics/people-population-community/population/population-estimates.

2. Therapy BC. Promoting Manageable Workloads Project Phase 2 – Preferred Practice Guidelines for BC Paediatric Therapists (2008). Retrieved from http://www.therapybc.ca/pdf/PreferredPracticeGuidelines.pdf.

3. Health Science Professionals Provincial Agreement 2014-2019 Wage Schedules. Effective First Pay
Period after February 1, 2018. Retrieved from
https://hsabc.org/sites/default/files/uploads/HEABC-HSPBA%20Feb%20%20Apr%202018%20wage%
20schedules-20171109.pdf.

Actions Taken and Progress Made

Survey (2015/2016)

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) filled out 141 Communication Matters surveys about publicly funded SLP service delivery for preschool-age children (December, 2015).

  • The Survey Summary provided a strong foundation for speaking notes when:
    • Communication Matters representatives spoke with Carole James (current Minister of Finance and current Deputy Premier) in 2016.

Public Consultations (2017)

SLPs, parents, caregivers and others filled out at least  26 of the 666 online surveys submitted to the Select Standing Committee in 2017, giving voice to our hope for increased service for preschool-age children.

At least 12 of the 292 written submissions to the 2017 public consultations advocated for increased SLP services for preschool-age children.

Approximately 6 of 187 oral presentations to the 2017 public consultations advocated for increased SLP services for preschool-age children.

  • Your actions and the message you sent were strongly reflected in the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation. The need for increased SLP services for preschool-age children was noted under two themes (Health Care and Social Services):
    • Health Care Recommendation #20:
      • Prioritize and increase funding for speech-language pathology services for children to address the urgent need for access to timely and effective services, and to ensure an appropriate number of speech-language pathologists are available to assist young children prior to starting kindergarten, and
    • Social Services Recommendation #37:
      • Increase access to early childhood identification and intervention services, including occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language pathology, with a focus on addressing urgent recruitment and retention challenges of professionals in this sector.

Letters Immediately Prior to Budget Release (January 2018)

Some SLPs wrote letters directly to Carole James, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, immediately prior to the release of the 2018 budget to highlight the relevant recommendations from the Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation and to reiterate the request for increased SLP services for preschool-age children. 

After the BC government sifted through all the recommendations listed in the Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation, the request for increased SLP services for preschool-age children was only minimally reflected in the actual Budget 2018. In this budget, early intervention services were given additional funding; however, SLP services were not identified separately.

As small as these steps may seem, this progress was an unexpected success for our first year!

In planning for our Call to Action 2017, we had been told by many advisors to expect to advocate for several years before our message would be reflected in the Budget recommendations. Together, we accomplished this in our first year!

Now we want to continue the push to increase SLP services for preschool-age children in BC. If you’re interested in more information about how you can participate, click here.

 

Suggested Letter Template

The Minister of Finance will be announcing the 2018 Budget in February. This provides the public with another chance to highlight the important need for additional funding for speech-language therapy services for young children in BC, so that the recommendations from the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation make it into the 2018 Budget.

Below is a suggested letter template that you can copy and paste to send to Carole James, the Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier. Use the entire letter below if you plan to send a hard copy letter. Or, if you plan to send an email, you can start copying at “Dear Minister James…” and send to FIN.Minister@gov.bc.ca.

Anything that is bold and inside square parentheses is meant to be deleted so that you can add your personal details. Please modify the following letter as much or as little as you like. If you would like to write your own letter from scratch, that is great!

If you have difficulties copying and pasting from this site, you can download and customize this Microsoft Word (.docx) file, Budget 2018 Letter.


[If sending a hard copy letter,
your address here]

[Date]

Honourable Carole James
Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier
Room 153 Parliament Buildings
Victoria, British Columbia V8V 1X4

Dear Minister James:

I was [relieved/happy/excited/] to see the following recommendation in the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services’ Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation:

Recommendation #20. Prioritize and increase funding for speech-language pathology services for children to address the urgent need for access to timely and effective services, and to ensure an appropriate number of speech-language pathologists are available to assist young children prior to starting kindergarten.

I’m hoping you will incorporate the aforementioned recommendation into the 2018 Budget. This is important to me because [please add your own reason(s) here, if more than one reason we suggest using bullet points].

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

[Your name here]

Exciting News!

The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services just released their Report on the Budget 2018 Consultation. We are thrilled to let you know that speech-language pathology (SLP) services for young children have been clearly identified as a priority in their recommendations. The importance of these services is mentioned under Themes 1 and 3.

Theme 1: Health Care

Speech-Language Pathology or Therapy

Recommendation #20. Prioritize and increase funding for speech-language pathology services for children to address the urgent need for access to timely and effective services, and to ensure an appropriate number of speech-language pathologists are available to assist young children prior to starting kindergarten.

Theme 3: Social Services

Child Care and Early Childhood Development

Recommendation #37. Increase access to early childhood identification and intervention services, including occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language pathology, with a focus on addressing urgent recruitment and retention challenges of professionals in this sector.

Special thanks to all of the parents, caregivers, grandparents, concerned citizens, communication health assistants, and speech-language pathologists who took the time to share their stories and get our message to policymakers. This historic step forward would not have happened without you!