Golden Prairie Parent Link faces budget cuts

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The Provincial Government, under Jason Kenney, is changing the way funding is given for Children’s Services Prevention and Early Intervention grants and contracts.

Shelley Jackson-Berry of Family & Community Support Services (FCSS), who is the grant holder for Golden Prairie Parent Link in Three Hills, received an email on November 4th informing her that the grant with children’s services that they’ve held since 2005 would not be renewed, and would expire on March 31, 2020. This grant has been given annually on an auto renew basis for $357,000, and provides services for residents across Kneehill County, Starland County, Hanna and the Drumheller area, for children and families from age 0 to 6, early childhood development programming, information referral, and parent education and support.

On November 7th, Jackson-Berry was sent an expression of interest, and also took part in a question and answer forum to try to understand what this change will mean for residents of Kneehill County.

Essentially, the provincial government is centralizing the care network to a hub and spoke model, in which communities can apply to be either a hub, a spoke, or both, in the delivery of services for youths 0 - 18, rather than having care administered regionally. The government is saying that the reason for this change is to ensure there is more equitable access for care.

Jackson-Berry worries that this change will decrease the amount of services they are able to offer, and will also affect the quality of those services; rural care and rural needs are much different than those of an urban centre. While the government is trying to ensure a more transparent process for the delivery of services, there is a concern that needs don’t always fit into their uniform boxes.

Jackson-Berry is, however, encouraged by the dedication of their Board in making sure that Kneehill and area residents are still served to the best of their ability, even in this time of uncertainty. It is clear at this point that services will need to be reduced, and from this area alone there are 10 staff members affected by the cut of funding. There are other sources of funding that FCSS can apply for, but this cut does make things more difficult. A new budget for Children’s Services Family Resource Network will need to be submitted to their Board in January, then proposals submitted to the government, with new contracts coming March 20, and the old contract expiring on March 31—a tight timeline, with much work to be done.

The provincial government continues to offer question and answer forums and Jackson-Berry hopes that more clarity can be gained through these means to ensure that Kneehill and area residents are kept informed of changes.