Members of the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) community have been left reeling after news that IDEA Services will no longer provide support to families due to funding cuts by the Ministry of Health.
Three popular and successful support programmes will get the chop, leaving many on the spectrum without their day bases and no education for families. It also means that the several thousand on waiting lists now have to miss out, at least until something else is sorted.
The news comes as a massive blow to the ASD community, and IHC New Zealand’s boss Ralph Jones says that the timing of the announcement comes as an “extra blow” that is “devastating” for the organisation and the people it supports. Just a few weeks ago, Jones also announced that several support services would be cut, including home support and facility based respite.
Other providers are now set to not only bare the increase in demand from the over 12,000 people affected by those cuts, but now also the large numbers involved with ASD programmes.
ASD programmes run by IDEA Services to be cut are:
Growing Up With Austism
Communication & Behaviour
In total, IDEA Services was underfunded by a total $500,000 in the past financial year as the Ministry of Health continues its cut backs. This news comes despite the fact that Minister for Disability issues said that funding has increased by 4% each year throughout the sector.
IDEA Services has been providing large amounts of support to the ASD community since 2013 under a contact with the Ministry of Health.
The Government simply must inject more funding into disability support. If not, big cuts like this are only going to continue. Labour MP Grant Robertson took to social media to air his concerns, but very few others in Parliament have touched on the issue.
“We should restore the funding for this as part of a comprehensive and diverse set of support programmes for those with autism. It is what a caring and inclusive country would do”, Robertson said.
People suffering from autism and their families have taken to Facebook to air their concerns. One woman said that IDEA Services had done a lot of good work to develop autism awareness training but the Ministry of Health hadn’t provided enough investment for it to take place. Another woman, who works for a National Group Organisation (NGO), said that families are being left with less and less support while workloads for organisations only continue to lose workers who are fed up with being unpaid for extra hours.
This blog has contacted this Minister for Disability Issues and the Ministry of Health for comment.