Canadian actor Eugene Levy is calling on the Doug Ford government to “do the right thing” and reverse changes it has made to funding for a group of young adults with autism.
Levy spoke to Global News on Tuesday alongside autism care advocate Brenda Deskin.
“These families, for them to be going day after day after day without the treatment these kids need is really just heartbreaking,” Levy said.
“I think these people expect more from their government.”
Deskin said funding to help care for her adult son Michael, who is also Levy’s cousin, has been cut drastically since the Ford government took power.
Deskin claims the government is not providing court-ordered funding for her son and six other families who have adult children with autism.
She is now in a midst of a lawsuit against the provincial government.
“We had things under control somewhat … because we were getting court-ordered funding to provide necessary care and therapy for Michael,” she said.
“It was court-ordered over a lawsuit that we launched and won against the provincial government over 15 years ago that actually helped many people in the province by removing a discriminatory age cutoff at six years of age … Fast forward 15 years later and they’ve abandoned us.”
Deskin said she lost funding for her son around the same time the Ford government announced their wider changes around the province’s autism program.
In February, the government announced changes that would see funding provided directly to families instead of regional service providers.
The change limited the amount families could receive to $20,000 a year for kids under six, with funding dropping to $5,000 per year after that until the child is 18 when funding becomes more limited.
The maximum amount was only available to families earning less than $55,000 a year.
Some advocates have also recently told Global News the provincial government’s funding for families of adult children with autism, which was already difficult to receive, has seemingly stalled.
In the midst of widespread protests over the autism program, in June the government announced it would back off the changes and conduct research to formulate a “new needs-based and sustainable autism program.”
Deskin said she hoped that would mean the funding for her son would be restored, but she said it still has not.
“He’s getting nothing,” she said, adding that he is required to have two therapists.
“They ripped it all away and he needs full support. And we are asking the government to give our children what they committed to them and what each individual child needs.”
“Autism does not stop when you hit 18,” Levy said.
“I don’t know whether politicians actually realize the hell that these families have to go through just to make sure that their young adult kids with autism can get through a day without causing great harm to themselves, let alone worrying about how they’re going to pay for what little help they can get without this funding.”
In a statement to Global News Tuesday, Christine Wood, a spokesperson for Social Services Minister Todd Smith’s office, said she could not comment on Levy and Deskin’s specific claims because they are the subject of litigation.
“We are committed to giving adults with developmental disabilities, including autism, the support they need to fully participate in their communities,” she said.
“In addition, our government is providing a needs-based, sustainable autism program that supports as many children as possible. That is why we are investing a record $600 million into the Ontario Autism Program.”
– With files from Kevin Neilsen and Travis Dhanraj