Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is glad to hear the Ford government promise to design and implement a “needs-based” autism services program, but he isn’t holding his breath that it will actually follow through.
“From the moment he started campaigning, Doug Ford has made a lot of extravagant promises – no layoffs, no program cuts, no deficits. But those promises have all turned out to be as empty as a bird’s nest in December,” said Thomas. “And now we’ve got Todd Smith, the new Minister of Children, Community and Social Services promising that his new autism program will be fully ‘needs based.’ But all indications are that it will continue to be based on a privatized ‘fee-for-service’ model.
“We’ve got a new minister, but it sounds like families of children with autism are stuck with the same old broken program,” said Thomas. “We didn’t hear a thing in today’s announcement about laid-off autism services workers getting their jobs back, or about families being able to count on quality public autism services in the future.
“Sounds to me like just another Ford promise made, promise betrayed.”
OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida said Smith’s promise to maintain the $600 million in funding committed by the previous minister, Lisa MacLeod, isn’t as good as it sounds.
“Investing in autism services is important, but it’s just as important to make sure that investment is used wisely,” said Almeida. “Since the new minister provided no other details other than saying the words ‘needs-based’ as often as he could, I’m afraid he will continue down the path of privatizing autism services through the ‘fee for service’ model, forcing families to spend a lot of time and effort basically rolling the dice and hoping they can find and afford decent therapists and service providers.”
Thomas said that if the government wants to provide autism services that are truly needs-based, it will roll them into the health care system.
“If you need a heart transplant in Ontario, you get one. You don’t have to wait to find out if the Health Department can afford to provide the surgery,” said Thomas. “It should be just the same with autism services. If your child needs professional, public autism services, that’s what they should get. No ifs, ands, or budget considerations about it.”
For more information:
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931