Ontario Children, Community and Family Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, faced with a massive province-wide backlash against the Conservative Government’s changes to funding for autism supports, failed to address the real problems facing families living with autism in her announcement today.

“Families living with autism need public services and access to full supports, not a six-month reprieve, which was really the heart of this announcement.”, said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario,  “Nothing the Minister said today will add resources to this file for the long term or enhance public services that families and children living with autism desperately need.  They have once again ignored the families who told them that a direct funding model was inadequate”.

During her announcement, Minister MacLeod claimed that the Ford government was ‘expanding choice’ for families, but choice can only exist if there are services available.

“Direct service agencies that provide specialized therapy will still be laying-off workers and closing their doors. How on earth can this be considered enhanced choice if there’s no services to choose from?”, asks Hahn, “This isn’t about “choice”.  If the Ford Conservatives wanted to help children with autism live a healthy and meaningful life, they would ensure that universal public services are available in every community in Ontario”.

Members of CUPE Ontario provide services and supports to families living with autism in a variety of ways.  Social Services Workers provide support through community agencies, school board members provide support for students at school, and members in our health care sector help families access and coordinate the supports they need.

Based on today’s announcement, fundamental caps instituted by the Conservatives stay in place.  That means families with children under six years old will only be eligible for up to $20,000 per year, and children over six will be eligible to $5000 a year in order to purchase private therapy. However, since private for-profit therapy can cost up to $80,000 per year, that will leave many families facing a huge shortfall in the supports their kids need.

“First these families were let down by the Liberals with their failed individualized funding approach.  Now the Conservative agenda for the privatization of services is taking a failed Liberal policy and making it worse. These changes are a betrayal to Ontario families and is more proof that the Ford Conservatives aren’t listening to the people”.

CUPE Ontario has been working with the Ontario Autism Coalition, who along with many others have been calling on the Conservatives to fund services, not end them.