Ontario Government to Reverse Direction on Autism Program and Provide Families with Needs-Based Support
The Ontario government has decided to change its direction on the province’s autism program and offerfamily’s needs-based support. This is coming after months of protests from parents who called for a reverse of strategy.
"Parents were right when they said that autism is a spectrum and that there are different needs for children on the spectrum." Says Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod
Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, quoted in the Globe and Mail, announced recently that the government will move to design a funding program based on the needs of individual children. The new program will work within a $600-million budget.
“It’s clear to me that we didn’t get the redesign right the first time. I’m here to tell you we will now,” he said.
How did the problem start?
The 7th of March, 2019 was the day when hundreds of protestors, especially relatives of people with autism, protested in queen’s park against the decision taken by the government to cut funding for people living with autism. In a city where about 40,000 of the children are registered in the autism program, the reasons to protest are higher. Macleod spoke about this problem in a news conference in Toronto revealing that there are more than 23,000 children in the waiting list to get therapy and some of them might wait for 2 years to start therapy, under the previous Liberal government plan, children diagnosed with autism would come off the waitlist and receive funding with no limits.
Governmental changes control the fate of children with autism
In 2016, the previous government had promised to raise governmental funding of autism program to $333 million.In the new system, however, CBC reported that families with children under six years old would be eligible for $20,000 per year, to a lifetime maximum amount of $140,000. Once a child turns six, funding would drop to $5,000 per year until they are 18. Children who enter the program at older than six would be eligible for up to $5,000 per year, up to a maximum of $55,000 by the time they turn 18. Families earning more than $250,000 per year were ineligible for funding.
After the recent protests about the controversial change in the autism program, Mr. Smith apologized to families for the anxiety his government has caused with changes announced in February that would have cut their funding.
“I am committed to getting this right. We are certainly sorry for the anxiety this has caused parents across Ontario,” he said.
Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition and a member of the government’s autism advisory panel, said in an interview, quoted on CBC News, that the change in direction will be a relief to thousands of families.
“On the one hand, this is welcome news. On the other hand, it didn’t have to be like this. We have just lost a year and families have gone through an incredible amount of pain and anxiety and suffering,” she said.