QUEEN’S PARK (21 June 2020) — Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East and Ontario Liberal critic for Children, Community and Social Services, released the following statement in response to the Financial Accountability Officer’s report today on autism services:
“When Doug Ford implemented his disastrous changes to the Ontario Autism Program last year, everyone told him it was the wrong thing to do. Parents said it. Experts said it. Now, the Financial Accountability Officer is confirming there is less money being spent per child and less capacity in the system. Families are being left behind.
The government cut funding to parents, left them to fend for themselves and never once took into account the capacity of the system and whether or not people would even be able to get service. Further, they employed shady accounting practices to try to cover up their mistakes.
I wrote today to pursue FAO’s recommendation that the Auditor General investigates aspects of the OAP as the government has failed to provide transparency on the numbers.
The sad reality is because Doug Ford decided to play politics, he’s put children and parents through completely unnecessary hardship and entirely upended the program causing layoffs and reducing capacity to provide services, particularly in The North.
Worse still, today with the COVID-19 pandemic, children, parents and service providers face dire situations. Children are regressing without in-person therapy or school. Parents are facing severe stress, and service providers worry about keeping their doors open as bills pile up. There needs to be urgent action to support those in the autism community, who have already endured so much. That’s why, earlier this month, I released a report with nearly 40 concrete recommendations for urgent action to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Todd Smith.
Doug Ford needs to direct his Minister to do the right thing: Stop the delays. Stop the politics. Listen to parents and implement an Ontario Autism Program and COVID-19 response plan that is flexible, needs-based and equitable to all families.”
For a copy of the Coteau report on autism during COVID-19: