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Autism Q&A

Respite Basics

May 3rd, 2022


For For Caregivers

We are often asked how respite works in BC and how long is the waitlist. If I don't need respite right now but I might in the future how long should I expect to wait? Is it worth joining another waitlist? Here are the respite basics. 
What is respite, where do you find respite, and how do you pay for respite?

Definition of Respite:

  1. “A period of temporary delay” 
  2. “An interval of rest or relief”

What do you Pay?

If you are paying out of pocket, you can pay whatever you feel the respite provider is worth. Please keep in mind that if you over or under pay, that reflects on other families. The range is typically $20 to $30 per hour. You may consider paying less if you are paying additional expenses (gas, etc.). If you aren’t paying for a respite provider’s fuel and they are driving your child around, you may want to consider paying a higher hourly wage. Other factors that may determine an hourly wage include:

  • Experience
  • Qualifications
  • Are they required to drive your children to and from places?
  • Are they required to provide any medical care (tube feeding, etc.) or self-help care (toileting, etc.)?
  • Are they working with an agencyIf so, the hourly rate will likely be higher but will include things such as Worker’s Compensation Insurance as well as liability insurance.  

Questions to ask a potential respite provider 

Before hiring anyone to help your loved ones, it is good to do your diligence, as in an interview process. Consider asking about:

  1. Qualifications.
  2. Criminal record check.
  3. References.
  4. Availability.
  5. Wage request.
  6. Experience.
  7. What will you not do?
  8. Do you have any questions?
  9. Do you have a current job? If so, what is it?
  10. Do you drive? How much liability do you have on your vehicle? Do you have it rated for the correct rate class?
  11. Why are you interested in this position?

Respite Funding Types:

1) Paying Privately

2) MCFD (Ministry of Children & Family Development) Respite

  • Waitlists depend on the region and can be anywhere from several months to several years.
  • Referral required from a Social Worker at CYSN (Children & Youth with Support Needs)
  • MCFD does prioritize based on a family’s circumstances. Therefore, one family may be approved before another family that has been on the waitlist longer.
  • Depending on the region families may or may not be responsible for contracting their own respite provider (in the Interior families do contract their own provider).
  • This respite service is not listed under Autism Services on the MCFD website, but rather under intellectual disabilities: learn more HERE
  • Therefore, families may not be aware that respite exists if their social worker didn’t mention it. If a family has not been appointed a CYSN Social Worker, they can request one by contacting the local CYSN office or going through the Intake Worker who may have talked to them at the initial diagnosis.
  • Sometimes, parents do not see the need for respite until their children become a certain age and are more demanding. Getting on the wait list for respite at the time of diagnosis is strongly encouraged. You can always be removed from the list if you do not need it.
  • Emergency respite – If a family is undergoing a crisis, sometimes emergency respite funding is available for a few months through CYSN. This respite would give the families a few hundred dollars per month for respite care. However, the families are still responsible for contracting their own respite provider.

3) At Home Program Respite 

  • Two funding streams are for Medical Benefits (Occupational Therapy, Speech-Language Therapy, or Physiotherapy) or Respite.
  • Contact your CYSN social worker and ask for a referral.
  • A nurse will come out to your home and assess your child.
  • When you are answering questions, make sure you answer based on your child’s worst day.
  • The child must not be independent with 3 out of 4 of the following skills: eating, bathing, dressing and toileting.
  • Again, families are responsible for contracting their own respite providers.
  • Usually, it is set up the same (guardian/parent gets a cheque each month) unless there are some issues or the MCFD worker and the family are using a contracted respite caregiver that is through MCFD.
  • Note for people living in the areas in and around Prince Rupert/Haida Gwaii, Smithers, Terrace or Kelowna: There is a different application process to access At Home Program Medical Benefits for families living in these areas. If you live in one of these areas, please use the link to the pilot areas At Home Program Medical Benefits application process.
  • At Home Program Guide

Learn more: The At Home Program – Eligibility and Application – Province of British Columbia (

4) CLBC (Community Living BC) Wellness Supports

  • “This is standard minimum funding available to individuals and families that can be used flexibly for wellness supports (formerly called respite) or contracted services. Beginning April 1, 2023, this funding is increasing from $300 per month to $350 per month (or $3,600 per year to $4,200 per year).” (CLBC Update, March 2023) 
  • Talk to a CLBC Facilitator about wellness support. Please contact your local CLBC office. Click here to find your local office contact information. 
  • The kind and amount of support you receive is based on the need for help in specific areas and the availability of the support. Learn how CLBC makes decisions about funding supports here. 
  • Wellness Support funding is $350 for Guide to Support Allocation (GSA) 1-3 and $700 for GSA 4-5 (while waiting for other requested services – when other services are fulfilled, $350 might be rolled into the new service while $350 remains for wellness support).
  • Understanding CLBC Assessment Tools:


Other respite resources:   

AFU Families Facebook Group – search #alternativefunding source  

ASD, SPD, Special Needs Therapy and Support Providers in BC Facebook Group – “Find Trusted Locals for Your Every Need.” (, 2023) 

Respite, Caregivers & BIs for Individuals with Special Needs in BC 

Support Worker Central – “A Job Board Connecting People with Disabilities and Support Staff.” (Support Worker Central, 2023) 

Related articles

AutismBC Highlights Recreational Respite 

AutismBC Staff Sharing: It’s Okay to Be Selfish Sometimes 

Vancouver Island Autism Resources

Northern BC Autism Resources

Interior BC Autism Resources

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