Layoff notices issued on first day of new autism program
Layoff notices have gone out at the John McGivney Children's Centre and 17 people will be unemployed in three months.
It is day one of the new Ontario Autism Program.
Parents can now choose their own provider and local agencies aren't sure if their staff members are needed.
Liam Rigden has severe autism and as of Monday, the 2-year-old is off a provincial wait list for therapy.
His mom, Meg Rigden, will now get $20,000 a year for Liam's therapy, but she says he needs $77,000 worth.
“All they have done is create crisis in thousands of families across the province,” says Rigden. “It doesn't do anything tangible for my kids, they won't get to be at grade level.”
The province maintains the changes still mean Ontario is spending the most, per capita, on autism in North America.
In the wake of backlash from parent, the ministry is tweaking the program.
“Parents were right when they said autism is a spectrum, and that there are different needs for children on the spectrum, so for the next few months, I'll take their input to best access how we better support those will complex needs,” says Lisa MacLeod, the Minister Of Children, Community And Social Services.
Meg Ridgen says “if you gave me all the money in the world, there's no one here to provide the service, which is unbelievable.”
The John McGivney Children's Centre provides private autism therapy in Windsor-Essex. With 17 employees given working layoff notices, that’s more than half the staff in the centre's autism program.
“I've seen ebbs and flows of staffing reductions, and budgets that were frozen but never anything to this magnitude,” says Elaine Whitmore, the CEO of the John McGivney Centre.
Whitmore says the layoffs don't take effect until the end of June. By then she's hoping the system is more clear.
In the meantime, Whitmore says they are exploring the possibility of being a public and private agency.