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Ford cuts gut autism services at KidsAbility

Waterloo – The Ford government’s cuts to services for children with autism has hit the KidsAbility Centre for Child Development, a leader in the Waterloo and Guelph-Wellington areas in helping kids with complex special needs for more than 60 years.

The shift to the fee-for-service model at KidsAbility places the entire program in jeopardy as the agency announces layoffs of 20 to 25 autism positions – almost two-thirds of the staff currently providing autism services at the agency.

“Doug Ford and his government are picking on children in this province,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “The man who claims to be ‘for the little guy’ has targeted the most vulnerable members of our society through cuts to child care, education, foster care and, in this case, autism services. It’s disgraceful.”

Under the government’s new fee-for-service model, there will be fewer agency-based services and fewer qualified professionals to help children with autism. This unregulated, free-market system forces professionals to compete for temporary, contract work with none of the benefits associated with decent, stable work.

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida demanded appropriate investment in our children. “The worst thing any society can do is focus on the present and forget the future. If we don’t get these kids the services they need, where they need them, to lead independent, productive lives, we’ll all end up paying a huge price. And while it’s hard enough for families in urban centres to find autism professionals, but it’s particularly difficult in rural and northern areas.

“This is just the latest stepping stone down the rocky path to privatized health care,” Almeida continued. “Another day under Doug Ford, another bad day for equality, fairness and decency.”

“While the Premier promised during the election that no one would lose their job, workers are receiving pink slips or otherwise leaving,” said Thomas. “Frontline workers are being fired, while others won’t stay in their careers working for bottom-basement wages.

Thomas says the bottom line is that the government cuts are hurting children. “They need stable, accountable, qualified professionals supported by an agency system rooted in the community,” Thomas said. “The new model exposes families to a host of problems with unaccountable providers competing for contracts in an unregulated system.

“The government should shelve this wild-west approach to children’s treatment. Making parents go on fishing expeditions for help is grossly unfair to them and their children.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931