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Belleville parents of children with autism rally against delay for Ontario needs-based program

Click to play video: 'Parents of autism children rally in Belleville against delayed ‘Needs Based Autism program’' Parents of autism children rally in Belleville against delayed ‘Needs Based Autism program’
WATCH: Dozens of parents of children with autism are speaking out against the Ontario government for delaying its needs-based program – Dec 27, 2019

Dozens of parents of children with autism are speaking out against the Ontario government for delaying its Needs Based Autism program.

On Friday afternoon, about 50 people came to Belleville from across Ontario to rally against the Ontario government. On Dec. 17, Bay of Quinte MPP and Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Todd Smith announced that there will be a delay in the province’s autism funding program.

The needs-based program will be delayed until 2021 despite being promised to run in April of 2020.

READ MORE: From autism to public health, a year of backtracks for the Doug Ford government

The director of research for the Ontario Autism Coalition, Angela Brandt, said, “This announcement means there will be an additional wait of about another 18 months, so we are looking at a total of three years — which, for a child with autism … is a lifetime.”

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Click to play video: 'Parents react to Ontario Autism program delay' Parents react to Ontario Autism program delay
Parents react to Ontario Autism program delay – Dec 18, 2019

Tara Bischof, a mother of two autistic children, says she has attempted to reach out to Smith through his office to share her concerns.

“These children don’t need a cheque, they need real therapy now,” says Bischof.

Bischof said she previously met Smith at a public event. “You lied to my children right to their faces,” she said.

“You made them believe you would help families.”

Canadian families have until March 2020 to apply for interim funding. They are being offered $5,000 from the government per year for children over the age of five, and $20,000 for children under the age of five.

However, some parents say that isn’t enough money to cover monthly costs.

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A spokesperson for Todd Smith provided Global News with a statement in response to Friday’s rally.

“The government is adopting the Ontario Autism Panel’s key recommendations, which are serving as a strong foundation for the new needs-based Ontario Autism Program,” the statement said.

“As the panel report indicated, the work to build this program is complex. We are committed to getting this right, which means we cannot discount good ideas put forth by the panel because they will require more time.

“Last week’s announcement stems directly from what families have been asking for. As we move towards April, and begin to implement the new program, the government will be providing regular updates on program details and what the transition will look like for children and their families.”

Once the program is introduced in April 2021, the needs-based program will offer multiple services to children with autism, including occupational therapy, applied behaviour analysis, speech language pathology and mental health services.

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