A PC employee has pulled over changes in Ontario's autism program and calls the Ford government's new plan "irresponsible".
"The decisions the government has made … are absolutely wrong," said Bruce McIntosh, who resigned as MPP Amy Fee's legislative assistant on Wednesday following the government's announcement.
The new plan does not recognize differences in needs between children at different ends of the autism spectrum, said McIntosh, the former president of Ontario Autism Coalition and father of a child with autism.
The funding "does not come close" to which families are required, McIntosh said, called needs-based funding "absolutely critical".
"I won't stay there and try to tell you it's okay."
Doug Ford's government announced its plan to clear the provincial wide waiting list within 18 months of Wednesday. Approximately 23,000 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders are awaiting state-funded treatment in Ontario, while only 8,400 are currently receiving program therapy.
The government will provide funding for treatment directly to families, rather than regional service providers, with a total of up to $ 140,000 per day. Children up to 18 years old.
This funding is based on age, says Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. A child joining the program at the age of two will be eligible to receive up to $ 140,000 while a child entering the 7-year program will receive up to $ 55,000.
Families can get up to $ 20,000 a year until their child becomes six. Then they can only get $ 5,000 a year, McIntosh said.
But intensive autism therapy can cost between $ 50,000 and $ 70,000 a year, said Ontario Autism Coalition President Laura Kirby-McIntosh, who is McIntosh's wife. The most intense treatment can be about $ 80,000, he added.
This means that some families will quickly run out of funding.
Likewise, families making over $ 250,000 will not receive funding, MacLeod said.
MacLeod said that the money will be frontloaded for younger children because they experience the most need at a younger age. Research shows that early intervention is most important to help the children with the autism spectrum, MacLeod said.
Sources that previously told CBC News will government on 14 out of 19 improvements required by the Ontario Autism Coalition and that funding for the program will not be cut.
But McIntosh said the new plan is against OAC's recommendations.
"The government got a list of three things that [Ontario Autism Coalition] wanted them to do, and three things they shouldn't do, "McIntosh said." And they did the very first on top of that, shouldn't. "
Kirby-McIntosh said they previously fought for needs-based funding under the Liberal Government.
Parents of children with autism protested against the former liberal government in the spring of 2016 when it announced that people over four years would be cut off from funding for intensive therapy. The Liberals ultimately supported.
The government's revised Ontario autism program was in 2017 to allow parents to either receive therapy from public finance providers or receive funding directly to pay a private therapist.
MPP Amy Fee, who parented two children with autism spectrum disorder, had protested in 2016 next to them, Kirby-McIntosh told the Canadian press. Fee is now McLeod's parliamentary assistant.
Improvements "Throw away"
McIntosh said the new plan is "to spread the same amount of money more thinly."
Waiting times – but still too long – have become "significantly better" in recent years, he said.
The guidelines for doing things were to make "stable improvement," he said.
"But now it's all been thrown away for something that isn't going to work and isn't fair," McIntosh said.
More money for diagnostic hubs
The government also announced on Wednesday that it will double the public spending on autism diagnostic hubs to $ 5.5 million a year over the next two years.
There are about 2,400 children in queue for assessment, with an average waiting list of 31 weeks, according to state figures.
Ford's government also announced that they also set up a provider list to help families find clinical counseling services for behavioral services.
The government also establishes an independent agency to "bring families into the program, help them manage their funding and help them buy and access services."
MacLeod said waiting list families can expect to receive funds within the next 18 months.