The budget handed down by provincial Progressive Conservatives Tuesday includes money to help some non-profit organizations continue key programming and extend their reach within the province.
The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador will be able to develop its presence across the island, as it received $255,000 to develop a regional office in Western Newfoundland and expand programs for children and youth.
The 2011 budget also includes funding for additional health care positions for the diagnosis of autism and decreasing wait times for occupational and speech therapy services.
Trish Williams, executive director of the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, was particularly keen on a $2.2-million piece of health care funding for expanding an applied behavioural analysis (ABA) program for children with autism. With the funds, the program will be able to grow from covering only children at the kindergarten level to covering children in grades 1 and 2.
“We’re really pleased with the extension of the ABA program. We thank the government very much. It’s been a long time in coming and we look forward to working with the government on other initiatives, as we continue to move forward in providing services for families affected by autism,” Williams said.
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“This will make a huge impact on kids, because up until now when they turned six they lost their ABA therapy, which is a vital portion of their lives. This will allow this to go on up until Grade 2 in this budget and I guess Grade 3 in three years’ time.”
The Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre is also receiving a funding injection this year — $10,000 from the province will help in expanding its services provincewide.
Aside from the centre, other budget items were aimed at violence prevention, including funds to increase the capacity of 10 regional co-ordinating committees for violence prevention activities and $360,000 to increase security at 10 transition houses in the province.
Cecil Whitten, chairman of the St. John’s Para Transit committee, applauded the overall collection of social programming items included in the budget. Among them, $400,000 to begin implementing the provincial strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and a $1-million home accessibility modification program for seniors and persons with disabilities.
“I was glad to see that the agenda of government on social issues is obviously going forward. It's a priority that's good. There's something in it for most groups, including the para transit system,” he said. “Any time that the community can get help and recognition from the government, it's a good thing. I look forward to seeing good things in the future.”
“I don’t know if there is anything in (the budget) you would say I disliked, but I have to say there were certain things I was pleased with,” said Linda Ross, president of the provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women. “One in particular was the addition of support for adult dental care for low-income adults. That’s so critical. It’s been something we have been asking for for years.”
The dental care program will help anyone over 18 on income support to access dental care services once every three years.
A commitment by the province not to claw back income tax refunds from those on income support was also highlighted by several people who spoke with The Telegram at the House of Assembly.