Amidst much backlash from parents, the Ontario government announced changes to the Ontario Autism Program, which has long been plagued by significant wait-lists exceeding 2 years. Under the previous program, once a child reached the top of the wait-list, they were provided with funding for full-time IBI if required, sometimes up to 40 hours per week.
Additionally, the government has vowed to eliminate the wait-list, but has significantly reduced the amount of funding available per child, supplying each eligible child with a “childhood budget.” These changes are scheduled to come into affect on April 1, 2019.
New Funding Amounts
Funds are weighted for younger children, so that a child entering the program at 2 would receive up to $140,000 in total support at $20,000 per year, while a child who is over the age of six would receive up to $55,000 in total support, at a rate of $5000 per year. With the going rate of clinically-supervised ABA in the province at $55 per hour, this does represent funding for a significant amount of intervention. It will, allegedly, allow the government to provide some support to the 23,000 families it claims were wait-listed under the previous program.
The funding is targeted at low-to-middle income families, with clawbacks starting at a household income of $55,000. Those with a household income exceeeding $250,000 will not be eligible for funding through the Ontario Autism Program.
Other aspects of the new Ontario Autism Program include doubling funding to the province’s five diagnostic hubs to support early identification, and establishing an independent intake agency to enrol families in the program.
The initial response of families to the changes has been negative, with the Ontario Autism Coalition organizing several demonstrations and meeting with MPPs across the province. As well, Autism Ontario released a statement clarifying that they neither suggested nor endorsed the changes being made to the program.
What are your thoughts on these changes to funding? What would a financially-viable option be for improving the OAP?