Doors close on autism foundation
Relieved: Simon Lewis and daughter Madeleine. Picture: Bill Hatto/ The West Australian

The LEARN Foundation for Autism is set to close next week for the third and final time after it failed to find a way to operate sustainably without government funding.

Parents at the East Fremantle centre were told on Thursday that the organisation was again in financial strife and would shut its doors on Wednesday.

But WA's biggest disability therapy provider, Therapy Focus, has stepped in with an offer to treat the children at the centre, saying they will retain LEARN's staff and its therapy program.

Therapy Focus is likely to be able to get State Government funding where LEARN could not because it is already a Disability Services Commission approved provider.

LEARN triggered a political row last year over its inability to secure government funding, with Premier Colin Barnett accusing the organisation's previous executive of mismanagement.

Parents worked day and night to raise $300,000 in emergency funding to reopen the centre and it was taken over by specialist charity governance group Blue Zoo. Therapy Focus chief executive Matt Burrows said plans for his organisation to move into applied behaviour analysis therapy were fast-tracked when he was approached by LEARN chairwoman Helen Dullard.

He said Therapy Focus would locate the autism treatment with other services rather than leasing a big building as LEARN did and had lower overheads, including reduced insurance premiums, and an existing governance structure and administration staff.

Ms Dullard said LEARN would go back to the administrator but she was delighted the program would continue under Therapy Focus.

Simon Lewis, whose three-year-old daughter Madeleine attends LEARN, said he was disappointed the Government did not step in to support families when the centre collapsed last year.

He said most parents were relieved to hear Therapy Focus intended to keep LEARN's staff and provide ABA services but some were concerned the quality of the therapy would not be replicated.

The West Australian

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