QUEEN’S PARK – Doug Ford took $1 billion away from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services in his first budget, and NDP MPPs Lisa Gretzky (Windsor West) and Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain) say those with disabilities and children living with autism are worried about what that means.
The Ontario Autism Program provides support for children with autism, the Special Services At Home program supports families with children with disabilities including autism who are cared for at home, the Passport Program and the Ontario Disability Support Program support adults with disabilities. Ford's budget was not clear how those programs would suffer as a result of the $1 billion cut. CityNews reported Friday that Special Services at Home lists have been frozen.
“Special Services at Home is absolutely critical to allowing parents to care for children with severe disabilities,” said Taylor. “After everything that these families have been through under the Ford government, including cuts to autism supports, this is another sickening blow. To tell these families that they're on their own and will get no help is cruel."
The problems that are being made worse by Ford started under the Kathleen Wynne Liberals. As of January of 2018, the SSAH funding had run out and the lists were frozen — now, with the $1-billion cut, families are worried it means they will never get the help they are waiting for.
Ford and Minister Lisa MacLeod have already slashed the Ontario Autism Program to cap the amount of support every child would get, regardless of need. It's not clear what Ford's budget means for those families.
Gretzky says adults with disabilities are worried that Passport funding and the Ontario Disability Support Program will also be taken away from them. Passport funding and ODSP support adults with developmental disabilities in their daily lives.
“Since Doug Ford took office, he has put people with disabilities, children, and their families through hell,” said Gretzky. “The Ontario Autism Program, Special Services at Home, Passport, ODSP – these are all programs that help people with disabilities live their lives to the fullest. And after months of anxiety and frustration, after pushing families into crisis, people are scared that Doug Ford has just taken it all away from them."
Gretzky and Taylor said the fact that Ford's budget didn't itemize funding, concealing the cuts, is adding to families' pain.
“Keeping families in the dark when it comes to support for their loved one with a disability is unthinkably cruel," said Gretzky. "They are terrified about what support they will lose next, leaving them unable to plan their lives."