QUEEN’S PARK — NDP MPPs Bhutila Karpoche (Parkdale-High Park), Jill Andrew (Toronto-St. Paul’s) and Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale) said it’s simply wrong for Doug Ford to plow ahead with his cut to autism funding following outcry from families. Local parents joined the MPPs at Queen’s Park today to share their personal stories about the devastating impact of the Conservatives’ scheme to rip support away from high needs children, and give everyone else less.
Jen Fitzgerald is one of those parents. Following Ford’s cuts, she is fearful about what the future holds for her son, who only just secured a spot in a program after a nearly two-year wait.
“It’s simply wrong to dash parents’ hopes and dreams for their children,” said Bell. “No parent should have to worry that their child will be deprived of the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.”
Fitzgerald is not alone in her fears. David Procenko says he will no longer be able to afford the $66,000-a-year therapy that his seven-year-old daughter Kaley depends on. Kaley already faced the possibility of having to stop therapy once, when the Liberals moved to cut off funding for children over the age of five.
“Doug Ford is taking things from bad to worse by forcing families like Kaley’s to get by with practically no support,” said Andrew. “The Conservatives’ scheme to cap funding based on age and income doesn’t even come close to helping parents afford intensive therapy, which can cost up to $70,000 a year.”
Under Doug Ford’s plan, children under six will be cut off after receiving $20,000 a year in direct funding, and children six and older will be cut off after receiving $5,000 a year. Only families earning less than $55,000 will be able to access these maximum levels of support.
The Conservatives’ scheme doesn’t even do the one thing they claimed it would — end the long wait for autism services. Lorena Sinato says her son Bryan has been waiting 19 months to get access to therapy, and she has been told that he will be waiting for at least another 18 months.
“Children with autism and their families deserve better than to endure long waits for underfunded services,” said Karpoche. “The government needs to give them more support, not less.”
Fitzgerald, Procenko and Sinato were among about 200 families from Toronto and throughout the province who joined the Official Opposition Wednesday at Queen’s Park to take their stories straight to the Ford government — all families with a child with autism, all devastated by Ford’s cut to autism funding.