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Autism spending not giving children the 'services they need', NDP health critic says

Ontario’s NDP health critic says government’s spending claims for autism programs last year were misleading.

Auditor general to investigate as part of normal audit process

Protests have been held across the province as parents spoke up about changes the Ford government made to autism therapy programs. (Peggy Lam/CBC)

Ontario's NDP health critic says the government's spending claims for autism programs last year were misleading.

Last week, Ontario's Financial Accountability Officer Peter Weltman released his report on autism services. It stated the wait list grew to 27,600 children last year.

The report also highlighted spending on autism therapy programs. The government reported $608 million spent on autism services last year. But that figure includes an expense of $174 million dollars for the families of more than 25,000 children who did not receive payments in that fiscal year.

The NDP has sent a letter to the province's auditor general, asking for a probe into the discrepancy. Last week, Bonnie Lysyk confirmed the spending is being reviewed as part of the normal auditing process.

Nickel Belt NDP MPP and health critic France Gélinas says she wasn't surprised to read the financial accountability officer's report. She admits it was hard to read.

"When you see that kids are on a wait list that hasn't moved, it just continues to grow," she said.

"None of them are getting the ... therapy that they need."

Gélinas says any delay in therapy for children with autism is detrimental.

"Their opportunities to have full-life decreases by every year that goes by where they don't have the therapy and the services they need," she said.

Ontario NDP health critic and Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas. (CBC)

"The whole thing is really hard to read, really disappointing and will have consequences for all of those children."

Gélinas says she's been hearing from families who are upset.

"They were just as shocked, insulted and disappointed when they read the report.

"Some of those families have received zero help, not one penny has gone to their family ... and then they see a report where money that was supposed to be there for their children never got spent. They were not happy."

With files from Sarah MacMillan

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