TIMMINS – Gilles Bisson, MPP for Timmins, held a roundtable discussion with parents of children with autism on Thursday to discuss the government's changes to autism services in the province.
“What we heard in today’s roundtable is loud and clear-- families in the north are unhappy with the changes to autism services put forward by the current government. Families are unsure if they can access services that are cost effective with the amount of funding that will be allocated to them” said Bisson.
Last week, the government announced that every child would receive less funding, which would rely on their age and family income rather than clinical needs. Intensive therapies cost up to $70,000 a year, but the funding model that was unveiled by the government averages just $8,750 per year for children that start receiving funding at two years old.
Bisson said that many parents who attended the roundtable are worried about early intervention as it is a crucial service and they are not always available in the area due to long waitlists.
“I willingly left my career to take care of my kids while we were on a waitlist for IBI and IBA. With these changes, I can never go back to work again and my wife will never be able to retire as we need $60,000-$80,000 per year, per child, in disposable income to pay for treatment, in addition to the other services that they will require.” said Tyler Stone, a father of 2 children who are severely autistic “We had hope that I would be able to go back to work, but this is now gone.”
“This autism overhaul means that autism services are being ripped away from high needs children, and every child with autism will get less support” said Bisson. “The Official Opposition believe that people deserve more from the government, not less.”
“The government is expecting us to pay for this treatment but we can’t as we’re leaving our careers to care for our kids” said Kim Parker, a mother of 2 children on the autism spectrum, “They are currently in treatment, but that is now being ripped away.”
“We’ve gone from bad to worse. Families were dealing with long waitlists under the former government’s plan, and are now losing hope that their children will receive the services they need under the current government” said Bisson.
The Official Opposition is calling on the government to fund families according to the needs of their children, and stop any plan that forces families to cope with a cut.
“It’s too late for my children. With all of these changes that Premier Ford is bringing forward, my children won’t be able to get the care they need,” Stone added, “they’re failing our kids.”
Bisson said that wait lists need to be eliminated by investing more into autism services, focusing on evidence-based solutions that put the needs of kids and their families first.
“They’ve redistributed the funding envelope that’s already too small to solve the problem”
Bisson explained that the government are not only privatizing services provided by not-for-profit agencies such as NEOFACS, but are creating a two-tier system, which is contrary to the Canada Health Act.
Under the Ford government’s autism plan, fewer parents will receive the maximum funding of $20,000 per year to pay for services that can cost most than $70,000 per year.