During the Covid-19 pandemic those who have behavioural services through the Ontario Autism Program have seen a dramatic cut in service hours as a result of suspension of one on one in person therapy. These providers are only offering virtual consultations/behavioural therapy throughout the pandemic and in most cases at severely reduced hours. Kinark in 2020 paid out exactly $4,147,515.71 in salaries to their executive branch, while 46,000 families remained on the wait list for ABA therapy. Think about that for a second. A non-profit charity paying out $4.1 million in executive salaries during the pandemic.
The burning question I have – Where is all the money going that’s been saved during Covid and where is the accountability on taxpayers funds? This was a question I posed to Liberal MPP Michael Coteau during an autism roundtable a few weeks ago. Coteau did not provide any solid answers, nor a commitment to follow up with Ontario’s Auditor General, only offered that the Ontario Liberals have been asking this question for some time, and haven’t been provided the answers, and then deflected to a direct funding option that the Ontario Liberals put in place in the Ontario Autism Program as an accountability mechanism. Direct funding pays families directly to purchase therapy at a provider of their choice rather than directly through government agencies.
As we come out of the pandemic, a lot of the kids both in service through the Ontario Autism Program and who are currently waiting for services are going to need behavioural and other services to transition out of the pandemic. There has been no plan from the Ontario PC’s as to what this would look like weeks before the start of a new school year. No plan to invest the money saved towards families that need it, rather than handsome payouts to executives of non-profits. No plan to increase accountability of Ontario’s non-profits that are providing services outside of direct funding.
Since 2016 I found the main gripe us families have had with respect to services of the disabled has been the lack of accountability on the non-profits receiving transfer payments. Kinark is almost like a swear word in the autism community. This agency is notorious for frustrating families and providing inaccurate information on services families qualify for. Kinark was also quite the topic of discussion during the autism roundtable with Coteau a few weeks ago, with several parents.
When I worked in finance, if we breathed on a client the wrong way, we would have been fired on the spot. Those that are working in developmental services through non-profits can quite literally shoot someone on the street and get away with it. Not only will they get away with it, but they often get promoted for doing that. We need a mindset change in the way this province delivers services to our most vulnerable. One that starts with top-down accountability of the non-profit sector, and forensic audits of these agencies.