Changes to the province’s autism funding has claimed more jobs in our area, at least that’s according to the CEO of KidsAbility. Linda Kenny told staff this morning that come January 2020, between 20 and 25 staff members will be laid off in a new round of job losses following nine layoffs earlier this year.
“Given our current fiscal reality, our board determined that we have no choice but to layoff professional, highly trained, regarded and passionate individuals,” Kenny said in a media release. “The changes to the Ontario Autism Program have destabilized a system that was built with the unique needs of children and families at the centre.”
The Government of Ontario changed their funding models earlier this year giving every family $20,000 per year for children under the age of six, and $5,000 per year for children six years and older.
The idea was to give parents more options for getting children affected by autism the treatment they need, and thus reducing wait times, but many families have been critical of the result. Instead, providers like KidsAbility have cut services, and the amounts offered by the government rarely cover the complete cost of therapies forcing parents to go out of pocket, sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
After April 1 of this year, KidsAbility no longer receives direct funding from the Government of Ontario.
“The fallout continues as children with special needs pay the price for the government’s utter mishandling of the autism file,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in his own media release.
“My heart goes out to the families no longer receiving essential services and to the passionate service providers whose skills are being lost,” he added. “KidsAbility does great work in our community, and it’s a bad news day when Ford’s cuts force them to lay off highly trained, professional staff.”
Despite that, the provincial government is staying the course. At least that’s the word from the office of Ontario’s Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Todd Smith.
“We understand the challenges that occur during a transition period can be unsettling, but our intended result is a system that provides more choice to families and parents,” said Christine Wood, press secretary for Smith, to Global News. “However, we know these changes will also mean an increased demand for autism-related services as funding is increased and more children come into service. We expect service providers to become re-employed across the sector as a result of demand from families in the immediate future.”
Kitchener South-Hespeler MPP Amy Fee, who is the parliamentary assistant focusing on autism, was sympathetic when offering comment to CBC KW.
“Our plan has always been to bring more children into service. I continue to be in contact with KidsAbility, and will keep this dialogue open as they work through these challenging times,” she said. Fee has two children who are on the Autism Spectrum of Disorders (ASD).
“Both Minister Smith and I are working hard to ensure the voices of the autism community are heard as our advisory panel prepares their recommendations for a sustainable, needs-based program,” she added.
Schreiner isn’t convinced. “This leaves families scrambling, while signalling to trained professionals that their services aren’t valued by the Ford government,” he said.
Photo Credit: Scene from a vigil for the loss of autism funding in from on Guelph City Hall in March 2019.