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OPSEU President: autism cuts and privatization are a ‘new low’ for the Ford government

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the Ford government is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of families who have children with autism.

“I’m not the only one who thinks so,” said Thomas. “Kitchener MPP Amy Fee helped announce the government’s terrible scheme to cut and privatize autism services. But just before the announcement, one of her senior staffers quit in protest.”

Thomas said autism services are clearly in need of investment – there are currently more than 25,000 families with kids waiting for diagnosis and treatment.

“But this government is addressing the waitlist by cutting financial support to families, eliminating accountability, and creating a two-tier system in which wealthy families in big cities get the services they need while the rest are left with scraps,” said Thomas. “Ford’s backroom fixers have made a lot of cynical moves, but this is a new low.”

Deb Gordon, a social worker at a children’s mental health centre and the chair of OPSEU’s Children’s Treatment Sector, says the government is putting even more pressure on the already overburdened parents of kids with autism.

“Giving money directly to parents doesn’t give them choices, it gives them chores,” said Gordon. “My members and I know this first hand. Every day, we hear the frustrations of families who have been given direct funding and then must find the workers to provide the supports.”

“Children and families need stability and help they can count on, not the headache of financial forms, or the struggle to find good workers, or the despair of not having enough money to get the treatment they need.”

Erin Smith-Rice, a developmental services worker who is the chair of OPSEU’s Developmental Services Sector, says this is just another example of the Ford government’s rush to privatize health and community care and cut the jobs of experienced public sector workers.

“During the announcement, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services said there are ‘bad actors’ in the private sector who put profit before the well-being of kids with autism,” said Smith-Rice. “So why is she giving parents a little bit of money and telling them to go out and find autism services from these private sector bad actors?”

OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida points out that Ontario is richer than ever before and can afford to provide adequate help for those with autism.

“It’s disgusting that Ford is cutting their services instead,“  Almeida said.   “This isn’t responsible policy, it’s just plain mean.”
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931

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