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Layoffs at Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador

The Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism in St. John’s.
The Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism in St. John’s. - SaltWire Network

Health Minister John Haggie says Autism Society ‘in transition right now,’ government focusing on services

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Seven jobs have been lost and more cuts are coming after another year without a funding increase for the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador (ASNL).

With stagnant government funding and about a 50 per cent decrease in fundraising activity, something had to give, says Autism Society of NL CEO Scott Crocker.

“Some people think that government actually cut funding to us. That is not the case. There’s been no cut in the core fund coming to ASNL from the provincial government,” said Crocker.

“The problem is that core funding has not increased since 2013. Staff size has increased, salaries have increased, costs have increased and the numbers of people coming for services and the number of programs have all increased. But the funding is exactly the same.”

In 2011, the society received $580,000 from the government for its core funding, which was reduced to $507,500 in 2013-14.

Crocker says not only is 50 per cent of the society’s funding essentially frozen for the last number of years, fundraising efforts have been more challenging during that time with a slowed provincial economy.

"There’s been no cut in the core fund coming to ASNL from the provincial government.” — Scott Crocker

“We’ve had a big reduction in our fundraising. All organizations over the last three, three and a half years have really been challenged trying to raise money in the community because of the economic downturn,” he said.

“We’re doing almost $300,000 less in fundraised revenue each year of the last three years.”

Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie says the government is making changes to how it provides services to those on the autism spectrum and their families.

“The Autism Society has a crucial role to play in supporting families. It’s been unique in the country and it has in the past provided some programming for youth and their families,” Haggie said.

“A couple of years ago, three departments (Children, Seniors and Social Development, Education, and Health) gave them some transition money. There was a Deloitte report that was commissioned to see how they could get themselves onto a more stable footing financially.”

Haggie says the government’s autism action plan will begin implementation once the 2019 provincial budget is passed.

“Our autism action plan moves health and community services and government-supplied programs into the program space, which then leaves the Autism Society to concentrate on its role of family support, which is what they and we really appreciate as their core area of expertise,” he said.

“We’re in a transition period, at the moment. From our point of view, our real thrust now is to get the autism action plan off the ground.”

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL


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