The OAC is pleased that the government has conceded that the Ford/MacLeod autism plan is a failure and must be replaced. Today’s announcement that the Autism Advisory Panel has been empowered to create a truly needs-based plan is very welcome news. Families currently receiving intensive therapy will be relieved to hear that they will get another six-month extension.
Although Minister Smith did not say it during his remarks, the ministry news release states that the new program will not be in place until April 2020. This is an unreasonably slow timeframe. In the meantime, we are told, childhood budget cheques will continue to be issued to families on the waitlist, despite general agreement that a one-size-fits-all approach is wrong.
The prospect of a stable, long-term solution has suffered repeated delays since the Ford government came to power. The previous minister froze intake in order to make the waitlist appear larger. Her commitment to begin bringing children off that waitlist in April was not fulfilled until the end of June, and since then, only 1% of the waitlisted kids have received their broken childhood budgets. As a result, there are many children on the waitlist now who have waited longer for therapy under the Ford government than they did under the Wynne government.
Having stated that he intends to “get it right,” the single most humane thing that this minister could do is tell families when they can expect a needs-based program to begin at the start of the new year and to require his staff to get that program up and running without delay.