Autism Yukon, as well as parents of children with other disabilities, claim that the Yukon government is cutting their support funding.
Liberal Leader Author Mitchell brought the matter to the legislature on Monday.
“Why are families of autistic children paying for this government’s inability to watch the big financial picture,” Mitchell asked during question period.
“Why is this support being cut?”
There have been no cuts to funding, services or support to these families, replied Health and Social Services Minister Glenn Hart.
“We are continuing to support those families, and the government remains committed to providing a choice to those families.”
If anything, the family supports for children with disabilities program is growing, according to Tom Ullyett, assistant deputy minister of social services.
He says that the misunderstanding is due to two specialists that the program has hired recently – a behaviorist and speech language pathologist.
The experts are being brought in as part of the program’s initial plan to provide more in-house support.
But some of the families using the program may be concerned that these new experts will limit their choices and funnel money away from the direct-funding program.
But this isn’t the case, said Ullyett.
“We went to the management board and requested additional funding for these two positions,” he said.
“So really our budget has increased.”
The overall funding for the program is currently $527,000, with $140,000 of this money to be used for contracts and $71,000 given to Autism Yukon.
The remaining $316,000 is available for parents to access and use as they see fit.
Although the program wasn’t started until 2008, this type of direct funding to parents has been going on since the early 2000s.
In 2004 it was around $100,000, said Ullyett.
Funding has tripled since then.
The family supports for children with disabilities program was created in April 2008.
There are currently 65 children making use of the program, 22 of whom have Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Families can access these services in three different ways.
They can receive help from one of the three social workers that the program has on staff.
They can make use of two experts now on contract.
And they can request direct funding from the government.
The average direct funding is about $15,000, although funding does range from $2,000 to $43,000 depending on the individual need.
Parents can then arrange for their own support, based on the accessed needs of the child.
“This program marries the knowledge that parents have of their children with the knowledge of our experts that we have on staff,” said Ullyett.
“Who knows these children better than their parents?”
The assessment is ongoing so that the program can respond to the child’s needs as they change.
The program isn’t intended to replace or duplicate other services already provided within the community.
Contact Chris Oke at firstname.lastname@example.org