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Parents say N.L. budget doesn’t go far enough to help their kids

Dara Barrett
Dara Barrett - Contributed

There were some surprises in Wednesday’s 2020 Newfoundland and Labrador budget for parents across the province, but not all were good ones.

Dara Barrett of St. John’s and Carla Stride of Carbonear — the parents who spoke to The Telegram Tuesday to express their hopes on what they’d like to see — saw some good points in Budget 2020, but both feel it didn’t go far enough to address the real needs of their children.

Barrett said while she was delighted to hear a $25-a-day child-care boost would be coming in 2021, she was disappointed at the lack of mention of additional mental-health resources.

“This was an area where the government could really invest in our schools, in our children and in our families and plan for the future for a generation of children who are living through an unprecedented global trauma of anxiety.”

“I was shocked,” said Barrett, a single mother of three. “Given the premier’s involvement with a mental-health charity, I thought there would at least be an acknowledgement of the need to boost our resources in that area for our kids. Schools are aching for more school psychologists on staff.”

She said wait lists for services through Eastern Health can be insanely long and most parents can’t afford private mental-health treatment at $130-plus per session, even with health insurance.

“This was an area where the government could really invest in our schools, in our children and in our families and plan for the future for a generation of children who are living through an unprecedented global trauma of anxiety,” she said.

Carla Stride
Carla Stride

She went on to say, “I know part of it is the cycle of elections and how parties are encouraged to budget for election and keeping their seats, not keeping the province in the clear, but once again, I’m disappointed in our government’s inability to future proof.”

A single mother of four, Stride was glad to see government allocate $600,000 for student assistants — something she told The Telegram she would be looking for in the budget. However, she said it falls short to what is actually needed.

“How is that broken down? You think about it, $600,000 is not that many teachers’ salaries in the run of a year… It’s maybe 12 positions for all schools across Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s certainly not enough to address the needs. There are an awful lot of special-needs children in our school systems.”

“If I surpass my six days of leave from work, then I’m out of pocket. Not every parent can afford that,. “It’s something government really has to look at now before it’s too late.”

Stride, whose youngest child has Type 2 diabetes, said she was encouraged to see government extending coverage for those enrolled in the provincial insulin pump program. However, on Tuesday, she said she wanted to government step up to help families pay the cost of a Dexicom meter — a needle inserted underneath the skin for a period of time allowing diabetes patients finger-prick freedom. She was disheartened when there was no mention of it in the budget.

She was happy to see government taking steps, like increasing taxes on cigarettes and vaping, to deter people and help prevent future health issues.

“That’s marvelous,” she said, “but if we’re talking about good health outcomes, we already have people, young children, in the province who already have these conditions and need help.”

Stride, a nurse and instructor, was also disappointed that government did not address the issue of parents potentially losing pay to stay home with sick children in the event a second wave of COVID-19 hits.

“If I surpass my six days of leave from work, then I’m out of pocket. Not every parent can afford that,” she said. “It’s something government really has to look at now before it’s too late.”

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