MPP reports on community consultations, proposes nearly 40 recommendations
TORONTO—Ontario Liberal critic for Children, Community and Social Services Michael Coteau (MPP – Don Valley East) today released a landmark report containing nearly 40 recommendations for the government to urgently implement to address the acute needs of those living with autism during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Ford government broke the Ontario Autism Program. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, children, parents and service providers face dire situations. Children are regressing without in-person therapy or school. Parents are facing severe stress, and service providers worry about keeping their doors open as bills pile up. There needs to be urgent action to support those in the autism community, who have already endured so much,” said Coteau, who was the former Minister responsible for the OAP.
Over the past two months, Coteau held eight community consultations to hear from the autism community. The findings of those discussions are outlined in his report, “Crisis in the Autism Community: Challenges from the Changes to the Ontario Autism Program and COVID-19”. The report proposes nearly 40 concrete recommendations for urgent action to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Todd Smith.
“The message received from consultations is that there are two streams of problems the government must urgently address: immediate challenges due to the pandemic and long-term changes to fix the OAP on a needs-based model. The infuriating factor is that many of those immediate challenges should be addressed by the basic services expected of a competent and caring Ministry,” said Coteau.
“Fixing what was broken by this government, addressing the pandemic and transitioning to a better model in the future will take deliberate, conscientious work. Parents are feeling as though they are coming last. They feel government does not realize that in difficult times like COVID-19, vulnerable sectors like this need more help and attention as they suffer the consequences more severely than others. Stress levels on families are extremely high; parental mental health is suffering. They feel disrespected,” the MPP added.
“The recommendations outlined in the report will go a long way to stabilizing the sector, helping parents and families through the pandemic, and moving to put in place a reliable new OAP. These are complex issues, to be sure. But some of the solutions are relatively simple, and require basic, competent government and basic human decency and respect. The Minister can fix many problems by being conscientious, communicative, attentive and respectful,” Coteau said. “Children with autism deserve our support. I will continue to do whatever I can to help.”
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