Autism treatment centre hands out 291 layoff notices amid changes to Ontario autism services

Nearly 300 staff at ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development received notices as the agency faces changes due to restructuring of the provincial government's autism program. Government of Ontario

A total of 291 staff at ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development have received notices that their positions are affected by recent changes to the way the Ontario government funds autism services.

In a statement to Global News, the centre’s director of communications, Jennifer Arnott, said: “In order for our organization to be able to continue to provide much-needed services to children with autism and their families in this new environment, we have had to make some significant staffing reductions, which were announced to staff today. In total, 291 positions were affected.”

Those positions, Arnott said, were full-time and were supported by the Autism Services budget. Affected positions include front line, management and senior positions.

READ MORE: What exactly is Ontario’s new autism program? A look at the controversy it has created

Agencies like ErinoakKids are no longer funded in the way they were by the previous Liberal government. The government’s overhaul of the Ontario Autism Program includes giving parents funds to support children with autism directly, taking money away from regional agencies.

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“Instead, families of children with autism are being provided with a childhood budget, which they can spend with any provider of their choice,” Arnott explained.

“These were very difficult decisions, and we would like to thank all of our dedicated staff for the excellent care that they have provided to children during our time as a transfer payment agency for the delivery of autism services,” Arnott added.

READ MORE: Ontario launches new autism program; practitioners to be regulated

After initially not commenting after Global News published this story, the office of Lisa McLeod, minister of children, community and social services released a statement saying:

“Our government believes parents know best. That’s why we are providing funding directly to parents, not agencies … the ministry continues to provide funding to meet ErinoakKids requirements for services for all children currently in the Ontario Autism Plan (OAP) including those on 6-month extensions of their behavioural plans, as notes by the approximately 180 re-hires this morning.”

The statement went on to say that there will be no cut in funding to the OAP and stressed on the minister’s commitment to needs-based supports for children and youth with autism.

Monique Taylor, the NDP critic for Children and Youth, meanwhile, offered the following statement on the cuts.

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“Organizations like EnrinoakKids provide critical supports to kids with autism and their families,” the statement reads. “Now, thanks to Doug Ford’s callous cuts, 291 of those caring front-line workers will be taken away from the children that need them.

“We support an Ontario Autism Program that’s fully-funded, needs-based and evidence-based, and we believe that taking help away from children with autism is callous, and can have devastating long-term impacts.”

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